Late on the night of April 20th, 50 miles from the shore of Louisiana, a fire broke out aboard the Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig under lease by BP, with 126 individuals on board. After a massive explosion, all but 11 of the crew managed to escape as the rig was consumed by fire, later collapsing and sinking into the Gulf.
Safeguards set in place to automatically cap the oil well in case of catastrophe did not work as expected.
Government officials said the blown-out well is spewing five times as much oil into the water as originally estimated – about 5,000 barrels, or 200,000 gallons, a day.
At that rate, the spill could eclipse the worst oil spill in U.S. history – the 11 million gallons that leaked from the grounded tanker Exxon Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989 – in the three months it could take to drill a relief well and plug the gushing well 5,000 feet underwater on the sea floor.
Ultimately, the spill could grow much larger than the Valdez because Gulf of Mexico wells tap deposits that hold many times more oil than a single tanker.
Now, you might wonder what this has to do with cats?
Well, how about collecting your cat hair to help save the wildlife endangered by the oil washing onto the shores of Louisiana?
Matter of Trust, a San Francisco-based ecological public charity, is asking people around the country to donate fur, wool, hair clippings — from pets and humans — and pantyhose. The hair quickly soaks up oil when it is stuffed into booms made from the pantyhose. When the materials reach the many temporary warehouses along the Gulf Coast, volunteers turn them into the absorbent booms which are then sent to the Gulf of Mexico to help soak up some of the crude oil gushing from the underwater.
The Matter of Trust organization has been using this method to help clean up oil spills since 1998.
The nonprofit has collected donations from all 50 states, from hair salons, barber shops and wool farmers. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of hair and lots of pantyhose have been donated. (Pantyhose can be donated even if they have small runs or tears.)
To help the cleanup effort with hair booms, visit Matter of Trust's online database, www.excessaccess.com .
Birds fly above oil booms in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana
where oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead continues to spread.