Sunday, May 30, 2010

On the Beach: BP's "Top Kill" Effort Fails to Staunch the Leak

Now BP must fall back on a containment strategy in the near term, hoping to capture as much oil as possible.

Sitting on the sea floor and awaiting deployment is a new containment dome, what the company calls the Lower Marine Riser Package cap. With robotic submarines, the company will sever the leaking, kinked riser pipe that emerges from the top of the blowout preventer, the five-story-tall contraption on top of the wellhead. Then engineers will guide the LMRP cap onto the pipe. The cap is fitted with a grommet designed to keep out seawater and prevent the formation of slushy methane hydrates that bedeviled an earlier containment dome effort. The cap procedure will take four to seven days, officials say.

"This operation should be able to capture most of the oil," Suttles said. "I want to stress the word 'most,' because it's not a tight, mechanical seal."---The Washington Post (5-30-10)

Today, The Washington Post reports the heartbreaking news: The "top kill" effort to staunch the oil gushing out of the BP well and into the Gulf of Mexico has failed, and the well is pumping "at least half a million gallons of crude a day into the gulf." The story of the BP oil spill reads like an allegory about the dangers of mankind's addiction to fossil fuels.

Waiting for the poisonous crude to arrive on the gulf beaches reminds me a bit of that post-apocalyptic 1957 novel and 1959 film On the Beach. In that film, most of the people in the northern hemisphere are killed in a nuclear war; however, in the southern hemisphere, the Australian government issues suicide pills to the population so they won't suffer a lingering death when the radioactive cloud arrives. At the end of the film, the heroes choose how to die; and we hear once again the film's motif, "Waltzing Matilda," Australia's unofficial national anthem.

The song, based on a traditional Celtic folk tune called "The Craigeelee," has been widely adapted; but the original lyrics may have been inspired by a suicide near the Combo Waterhole in Queensland, Australia, during a shearers' strike in the 1890s. One recent adaptation, "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda," commemorates the 50,000 Australians who perished in the Gallipoli campaign. [Learn more about the history of "Waltzing Matilda" at Roger Clarke’s Waltzing Matilda Home-Page.]

COSMOTOPPER777, who posted the film clip from "On the Beach"

In the 1959 Stanley Kramer film "On the Beach", composer Ernest Gold adapted the music for Waltzing Matilda in a variety of motifs throughout the movie, culminating with a valiant theme as the doomed American submarine crew heads for home. We hear it again as "Taps" in the final apocalyptic scene in the deserted streets of Melbourne, blended with it's ominous companion throughout, the ticking of a watch slowly winding down. Set five years in "the future" (1964 at the time of its release), the film tells the story of the survivors of a nuclear war, living out the last months of their lives in Australia, as a cloud of radioactive fallout envelopes the globe. Just three years after the release of this film, we lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, coming very close to realizing this fictional but prophetic story. Ironically, the stark visual image in the final frame of this film still resonates 50 years later: "There's still time...Brother."

This Memorial Day weekend, you might take the time to listen to the WWI Remembrance Day version of the song, "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda," as you await ruin approaching our marshes and coastlines.

When I watch the live-feed of the BP oil billowing out of the well, I remember watching Chernobyl burn in 1986. Check out "The Chernobyl Disaster Incident" Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Mikhail Gorbachev narrates part of the film.

Brave men worked desperately to contain the radiation in Chernobyl's nuclear reactor just like the oil engineers are trying to plug up the BP oil well. The very complicated and heroic operation to seal the reactor finally succeeded; but the Chernobyl catastrophe would have been much, much worse if it hadn't been for the sacrifices of hundreds of doomed heroes. In Part 2, the famous nuclear physicist Vassili Nesterenko explains that the nuclear core might have exploded like a giant atomic bomb. Minsk would have been obliterated and Europe rendered uninhabitable. Many lives were sacrificed so that this would not happen.

India's Daily Latest News (4-27-10) reports:

A report by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko which appeared in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science [See "Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment"] showed that by 2004, there were 985,000 additional deaths worldwide caused by the nuclear disaster, including 212,000 of them within Western Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

According to a press statement released by the New York Academy of Sciences (4-28-10):

[T]he 327-page volume is an English translation of a 2007 publication by the same authors. The earlier volume, “Chernobyl,” published in Russian, presented an analysis of the scientific literature, including more than 1,000 titles and more than 5,000 printed and Internet publications mainly in Slavic languages, on the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

For more information about the life and work of Dr. Vassili Nesterenko read "Death of an exceptional resister: Vassili B. Nesterenko."

"Denialists" in the the Belarus State Security reportedly did not like all this research being published about the consequences of Chernobyl. According to "Death of an exceptional resister" and as noted below in Dr. Vassili Nesterenko's Wikipedia:

Because of his activities, [Vassili Nesterenko] lost his job and got problems with the State Security Agency of Belarus, which threatened him with internment in a psychiatric asylum. Later, however, the Belarusian government tried to soften him proposing him to get back a job in a state institute, "at the condition that he would not work on Chernobyl anymore." He escaped two assassination attempts.

As the world runs out of oil, I think that more of these energy-related catastrophies are probably inevitable. Some global warming denialists such as the corrupt, black-hearted Oklahoma Senator Inhofe, his sociopathic, clownish mouthpiece Marc Morano, and Virginia's Grand Inquisitor Ken Cuccinelli are persecuting heroic global warming scientists such as the American Michael Mann and the Englishman Phil Jones, who could offer our children and grandchildren solutions to our addiction to fossil fuels instead of a suicide pact.

One time, a wise man I know explained that sometimes we ask God why he didn't send us great scientists and leaders who would cure AIDS, end hunger, solve the problems caused by global warming, or bring us world peace. The wise man explained that God would probably answer, "I did send you those people, but their mother had an abortion." It seems to me that the "Christian" Senator Inhofe, who claims to be against abortion, would like us to abort our most prophetic scientists. Senator Inhofe is a grandfather; and I think that someday, when the oceans reclaim the land and our crops are failing, Senator Inhofe's grandchildren and great grandchildren will curse their greedy grandfather for oppressing the prophetic voices of our brilliant scientists and for failing to use his power to develop farsighted policies that might have prevented the suffering and extermination of untold millions of victims. Senator Inhofe is supposed to serve the people; but future generations may view him as a political gangster like Stalin, Hitler, Mao, or Pol Pot, whose stupid, arrogant policies "served" unscientific ideologies, dangerous conspiracy theories, and greed, not the people.

The always-elegant and articulate Washington Post (5-30-10) reports ironically:

It is the well that will not die...


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