National Geographic : 2010 Oct
• in Houma, Louisiana, the local o ces of BP---now the Deepwater Hori- zon Incident Command Center---were swarming with serious men and women in brightly colored vests. Top BP managers and their consultants wore white, the logistics team wore orange, federal and state environmental o cials wore blue. Reporters wore purple vests so their han- dlers could keep track of them. On the walls of the largest "war room," huge video screens ashed spill maps and response-vessel locations. Now and then one screen showed a World Cup soc- cer match. Mark Ploen, the silver-haired deputy incident commander, wore a white vest. A 30-year vet- eran of oil spill wars, Ploen, a consultant, has helped clean up disasters around the world, from Alaska to the Niger Delta. He now found him- self surrounded by men he'd worked with on the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska two decades earlier. "It's like a high school reunion," he quipped. Fi y miles o shore, a mile underwater on the sea oor, BP's Macondo well was spewing some- thing like an Exxon Valdez every four days. In late April an explosive blowout of the well had turned the Deepwater Horizon, one of the world's most advanced drill rigs, into a pile of charred and twisted metal at the bottom of the sea. e THE DEEP DILEMMA e largest U.S. oil discoveries in decades lie in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico---one of the most dangerous places to drill on the planet. BY JOEL K. BOURNE, JR. THE GULF OF OIL Joel Bourne is a contributing writer. His article about California's water supply appeared in April.