Stephen Wilkes Documents BP's Oil Spill
The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling unit exploded on April 20th, spilling millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and resulting in the deaths of 11 platform workers. Operated by BP, the company continues its efforts to halt the spill, drilling a relief well to intersect the original well. The relief well must strike a specific target that is more than 3 miles beneath the surface of the ocean; sensors and magnetometers direct the path of its construction. Once the relief well is finished, mud, cement, and other materials will be pumped into the original well to restrict the flow of oil.
The relief well is meant to be the final solution after several short-term attempts such as the containment dome and top kill failed. Stephen Wilkes embarked on an oil rig for Time magazine, capturing the latest events surrounding the aftermath of the explosion. Arriving via helicopter, Wilkes took aerial shots of the operation. Once on board, Wilkes chronicled the workers trying to stanch the spill, attending to the drill of the relief well and monitoring activity from the rig control room.
Rig Control Room
Wilkes was the only photographer on board, along with television crews. The presence of Wilkes and other press on board the rig was dependent on the weather and safety conditions. At any moment should the situation be deemed unsafe, all media outlets were instructed to immediately return to the heliport and leave. Wilkes arrived on the day that the rig was scheduled to replace a containment cap, and was warned he might have to don a respirator as they headed downwind towards the oil rising to the surface.
No complications arose and Wilkes' photos can be seen in this week's issue of Time magazine, also available for purchase on the iPad with additional photos. Wilkes also spent time in the surrounding area doing studies on the oil that surfaced on the water. He will continue to document the places affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion; look for more of his work in upcoming issues of Time.
Monitoring the drill
A fireman aboard the rig
Oil in the water
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