As most of the country knows by now, the cargo ship
bashed into San Francisco’s Bay Bridge last week, cutting a 90-foot gash in its fuel tank and
spilling 58,000 gallons of bunker oil
into bay waters. The area’s infamous tidal currents did the rest, stretching the oil slick into miles-long ribbons that promptly washed onto shore. Many area beaches have become safety hazards covered in globs of tarry, toxic oil. If you’re downwind, just the fumes can be nauseating.
But this is Silicon Valley’s backyard, and people are putting the Internet to use. The
San Francisco Chronicle
customized Google Map
that gives readers a bird's-eye view of spill locations complete with photographs and video. Check it out to see the extent of the damage as well as pictures of
Golden Gate Bridge
that are worth a thousand words. You can stay tuned to headlines on the
newspaper’s Twitter feed
Locals frustrated with the slow response and limited resources of official cleanup crews quickly began organizing through
. On Flickr, there’s a demonstration of how to safely
pick up an oil glob
with a kitty litter scoop (other handy tools: mats made of hair clippings, jumpsuits made of Tyvek fabric). And YouTube is full of news clips: efforts to
help oiled wildlife
, harried officials trying to
warn the public about the dangers of cleanup
helicopter footage of the spill
at area landmarks.
News reports emphasize the spill’s threat to migrating birds, but San Francisco Bay is also the winter home for
hundreds of thousands of ducks, sandpipers and grebes
. To these birds and the area’s resident cormorants, pelicans, gulls and marine mammals, the spill represents a much longer-lasting threat.
Oiled wildlife has washed up as far away as the Farallon islands, 30 miles offshore. The
Point Reyes Bird Observatory
reports collecting more than 30 seabirds including murres, grebes, pelicans and
--small, burrowing seabirds related to puffins.
is a reminder of how easy it is for bad luck and lapses in attention to wreck an ecosystem almost overnight. And that’s without nature flexing its muscles: This week, a
storm on the Black Sea
sank a Russian tanker, creating a spill measured in tons, not gallons, and oiling thousands of birds. Let's be careful out there.
(More Flickr photos, including the one above, from savethebay)