Today is the one-month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill in the Gulf. I am intrigued, though perhaps not surprised, by news reports that it took over three weeks for BP to share underwater video footage of (depending on whose estimates you use, 5000 to 95,000 barrels per day of) oil continuously spewing into the ocean. The image above was the only image BP would release until pressured by news organizations and the government last week (they claimed nobody asked, which news organizations refute). (Incidentally, BP appears to be forthcoming with lots of photos and video at its Deepwater Horizon Response site; these are worth a critical look as well.)
What's so scary about images like the one above? At first glance, not much. They look more like stills from Titanic than indexes of environmental disaster. And they seem especially technical and obscure when compared to images of tar balls and oil-covered critters popping up along the coastline.
Yet these underwater images, and especially the live-action video footage, serve as reminders that those tar balls aren't the "aftermath" of anything. It's still going on, right now, while you are reading these words. Thousands of barrels of oil per day spewing into the ocean. That's something BP would probably prefer the public doesn't see. For BP, visibility is the disaster.
image credits: BP via ABC; Greenpeace activist message in Louisiana: John Moore, Getty Images.