Much of the Gulf Coast oil spill story can be seen in photos from the tragedy. Gerald Herbert, a professional photographer covered the spill and returned for the one year anniversary to see how things had changed.
He found some places that are almost back to normal, but others that are profoundly changed, perhaps forever.
Pelican birds are the focus of several of his pictures. They had just come off the endangered species list when the spill hit.
"It was quite a horror show. Birds were swimming in oiled water. Oil was on the eggs in the nests. Oil was completely surrounding the island and lapping up onto the marsh grass that buffered the mangroves from the sea. And the mangroves are where the pelicans nest," Herbert says.
Brown pelicans are non-migratory, so they stay where they are year-round and nest exactly where they grew up. Pelicans are now nesting on the bare earth, exposed to any minor storm surges that might come along.
Herbert also flew out in a helicopter over the GPS coordinates of the Deepwater Horizon rig, where the platform exploded and the oil spill happened.
"As you fly over it now, it's just open blue sea," he says. "But there's no question there's other aspects of this that are affecting people's lives to this day and affecting the ecology to this day."
“When you venture into Barataria Bay, which took a brunt of this damage from the oil, it's really sobering and shocking to see.” - Gerald Herbert, Photographer
“It was quite a horror show. Birds were swimming in oiled water. Oil was on the eggs in the nests. Oil was completely surrounding the island and lapping up onto the marsh grass that buffered the mangroves from the sea. And the mangroves are where the pelicans nest.” - Gerald Herbert, Photographer
“It's frightening to (fishermen) to have to face another bad season and not knowing if their business is ever going to rebound.” - Gerald Herbert, Photographer
1. How does oil affect animals and plants?
2. What kinds of jobs rely on having clean, healthy oceans and beaches?
3. If you were telling a story about something that happened to your community, would you rather use words, pictures or video? Why?
1. What did you learn from this photo essay?
2. Which pictures stuck in your mind?
3. What can be done to help pelicans whose homes have been affected by the oil spill?
4. What can be done to help the fishermen who were affected by the oil spill?
Lesson Plan: Capping and Cleaning Up The Oil Spill: