Anniversary of a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico shows much remains murky
US Coast Guard/Wikimedia Commons
In a steamy Louisiana marsh, crickets do their best impersonation of a canary in a coal mine.
Afloat in orange cages on the coastal wetland, the featherless chirpers warn researchers of toxic fumes rising from oil. Oozing oil is a recurring yet elusive problem on the marsh in Barataria Bay, just south of New Orleans. One day, a patch of the wetland is green and lush, the next it’s drenched in thick, noxious goo. It’s a haunting vestige of North America’s largest marine oil disaster: the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.
At first, the possibility that the oil was still surfacing and releasing killer vapors years after the spill seemed far-fetched; everything scientists know about spills suggests that fuming oil would have vanished almost immediately after the oil was released. But the Louisiana crickets are quietly telling a different story. They’re dying.
“It’s this huge mystery,” says environmental scientist