#GulfSpillFlashback: Giving the Gulf Oil Spill the Consideration It Deserves

Oil on the water’s surface in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Oil on the water’s surface in the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Flickr User James Davidson (Creative Commons))

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, setting off the largest accidental marine oil spill in U.S. history. As a result, April 20th of each year is the day to remember the lives taken by the explosion and consider the recovery of Gulf communities and wildlife.

However, 3.19 million barrels of oil didn't burst from the well in a single day—it steadily streamed out over the course of 87 days before an experimental cap stopped the flow on July 15, 2010. Those were 87 days when people around the country and world watched as oil spewed from the wellhead with no end in sight, streamed live to their computers from a deep-sea camera. Those were 87 days when we agonized over the effects of the spill on the people and wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico. Those were 87 days when we waited for someone to put an end to it. We had a million questions and no answers, and we couldn't tear ourselves away.

A single day of commemoration cannot do justice to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We can't explore research that addresses our questions from five years ago in just one day, or have time to consider the spill's continuing impacts.

In order to better understand the experience of the spill's timescale and give it the consideration it deserves, we're launching a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #GulfSpillFlashback. Starting on the night of April 20, we will “live tweet” the spill as if the events of five years ago were unfolding now. (For example, we will tweet Gulf spill-related news stories from May 5, 2010 on May 5, 2015.) As we go, we will answer questions and address speculation from five years ago, if answers are yet known.

We hope that this campaign will give us time to address what happened during that spring and summer, and since. We hope that it will allow us to remember and relive the agony and anger, which only those of us removed from the Gulf coast have the option of forgetting. We hope that it will prevent this disaster, still fresh, from becoming yet another blip in the news cycle soon forgotten.

Join us on Twitter at @OceanPortal and #GulfSpillFlashback.

If you're looking for other resources on the spill, we have an interactive following the path of the oil, a comprehensive review of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and our many articles about oil spill science:

Scientist-written blog posts:

Q&As with oil spill scientists:

April 2015