I didn't get my call to volunteer today but I went down to the beach anyway. I needed to see for myself what was going on. Driving their I felt as if there had been no oil spill. Sunny day, people out walking, pushing prams and on skateboards. The first stop I made was at Pilot Bay which is buffered from the spill by a strip of land. The Mount itself stands at the end like the dot on the letter 'i' or an explaination mark. Getting out of the car I immediately heared the choppers over head and I was hit by the industrial smell of oil. This was real after all.
Every where people can access the beach from has warning signs telling us to stay off. Dotted along the otherwise deserted beach were volunteers in protective suits.
It was an odd feeling. I expected to see the oil. I couldn't see it but I could definitely smell it and the people cleaning kept adding little blobs to their bags.
I crossed over to the other side of the land strip to the main mount beach. This place is a tourist hot spot in summer and the sea itself important both environmentally and financially to our area.
Standing there taking these photos I felt sure I was in some sort of a time warp. One one side of the street people sat at cafes, they ate lunch and crowded the streets. The other side was completely empty. An endless coastline and not a single person on it. I was standing in the middle with my camera and it felt like I was stuck between 2 worlds, like no one had told the busy side of the street that there had been a catastrophic oil spill. If it hadn't have been for the smell and the emptiness I could have almost not known myself.
I didn't photograph the people who stood on these dunes like me. Some were quiet and reflective, others talked about the spill as if they were discussing the weather.
"Oh yes..bit of a spill over there...nasty thing...but such a nice day out, should we get lunch?"
It was surreal.
You may recognise this part of the beach from this photo that I posted at the start of the year.
The nakedness of the beach stayed with me when I left.
It was the only real sign that anything had happened here. Driving towards Papamoa I came across a road block almost immediately. Papamoa has been badly hit by the spill and if I thought getting to the beach at the Mount was hard it had nothing on Paps!
These trucks were taking away huge skip bins filled with toxic gunk. Further up were the police, the army and security firms all making sure that no one got through except media and trained personale. They kept the traffic moving and thanks to the dunes blocking the view from the road I didn't get another photo. Below is a media photo of what I would have seen had I been able too. This area is much closer to the shipwreck and in the direct line of fire.
Sad, very sad.
I am glad I went despite the bizzare time warp feeling. It's frustrating not being able to do anything but I'm only 1 of 4500 people who've registered to volunteer. This is good! Hopefully the oil will stay onboard the ship and not all of us will get a turn to help clean up our coast...fingers crossed.
Fish, squid and crabs untold.
If you missed my first posting on the oil spill you can see it here.