EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: Capturing Oil Toxins on Film off the Mississippi Coast


On the ground with Jerry Moran:

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with my Sea Shepherd friends – and a powerful ultraviolet (UV) lighting system – taking photographs and collecting samples along the Mississippi coastline and on and around the nearby barrier islands.

From a photographer’s perspective, the experience was “illuminating,” to say the least…and the photos will show why. Ultraviolet lighting causes the more toxic and persistent components of oil to flouresce, or shine, a bright yellow or orange color. What better way to document contamination from the spill?

Toxin illuminations are clearly visible in the night photos of the walls of small trenches we dug. These images were taken in the Long Beach-Gulfport area (Latitude 30,21.1459N, Longitude 89,7.737W). The importance of these photos is that they show that even when oil isn’t visible, there are still toxins present. And the fact that this toxic material is lingering just below the surface should help guide cleanup crews and sampling efforts.

We wanted to document as much contamination as possible during our whirlwind tour, so we had to figure out a way to make the UV lighting effective during daylight hours. We ended up using a large black tarp to create the darkness we needed to take an ultraviolet look into the multitude of 3-inch wide by 2 1/2-feet deep circular core holes we dug.

Our days were spent on the beaches and islands from the Pascagula area (Round Island and Singing River) to Ocean Springs and Waveland collecting soil and water samples as well as live crabs from the Ocean Springs area (Latitude 30,23.0288N, Longitude 88,48.6751W). We also secured some live shrimp, fish and squid samples to be professionally analyzed. Ultimately, we were able to cover a seemingly insurmountable area in a relatively short time thanks to the passionate work of my Sea Shepherd friends – Rex, Brock and Bonny – and the help of some buddies in the area.

© Smith Stag, LLC 2010 – All Rights Reserved


  • thank you so very much for keeping the “lovers of louisiana coast line”
    informed with your beautiful photography work. it also keeps bp on their toes.
    best. grace coleman

  • blessings to green peace and those of you assisting. cousteau – green peace – the two that did not let us down.

    for i am eternally thankful.

Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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