Waiting for someone or something, good or bad, that never shows up is a familiar theme in the theater world. Sometimes the anticipated arrival doesn't happen for reasons which remain obscure, as in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Sometimes rescue or redemption is prevented by an interceding act of violence (Clifford Odet's Waiting For Lefty).
On rare occasions, the non-appearance of something -- say, the calamity of a new ice age -- turns out to be an uplifting occurrence that reaffirms humanity's indomitable spirit. As the maid Sabina says in Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth:
"We've managed to survive for some time, now, catch as catch can, the fat and the lean, and if the dinosaurs don't trample us to death, and if the grasshoppers don't eat up our garden, we'll all live to see better days, knock on wood."That about sums up the mood settling in over Pensacola. Time and again we've been warned to expect oil within the next couple of days. Somehow, we've managed to avoid it, "knock on wood."
2. Warmer water.
As the underwater gusher off the Louisiana coast continues spilling oil into the Gulf at an estimated rate of 210,000 gallons a day, at mid-day Friday there still was no sign of it in Pensacola. At the entrance to Pensacola Bay, "the water is definitely getting warmer" we were told by two scuba divers as they emerged from an hour's dive off the western tip of Santa Rosa Island.
John Anderson and Tom Holloway moved to Pensacola from Salt Lake City just a month ago. They laughed as they told us how they scoured all kinds of locations looking for the perfect place to do some serious scuba diving.
"Oh, look!" John good-naturedly mimicked his initial reaction one day in Salt Lake City when they came across Pensacola on a map. "Great weather, lots of clear water, and no oil pollution."
So far, they say, it's all been true. They're hoping it stays that way.
"The water is definitely warmer," Anderson reports. "Lots of Angelfish down there, which we wouldn't be seeing if it was cooler."
The anti-oil efficacy of plastic booms has been widely questioned in the past week, as Rick Jervis reports for USA Today from the Louisiana coast:
Globs of the rust-colored oil water slither under and over the outstretched booms from the boats. Dead Portuguese man-of-wars and clumps of sargassum bob in the clumpy, dirt-colored water. Oil droplets can be seen 10 to 15 feet under the surface.Still, mile upon mile of plastic booms continue sprouting up along valued shorelines and estuaries in the Pensacola area. Sometime in the past two days a long string of them was added to the north shore of Santa Rosa Island inside the Fort Pickens National Seashore.
"They're not collecting much oil," and they're not going to be able to," Rick Steiner, a former University of Alaska marine biologist and oil-spill response consultant said... . "The oil is too dispersed in the water. It's going to go wherever the current takes it."
Today, a trawler was anchored off Dead Man's Island on the north side of Pensacola Beach, where booms will be installed some time in the next day.
More are planned, we've been told, for the entrance to Little Sabine Bay on Pensacola Beach.
4. Air Purity.
So far, no one has smelled any of the oil sloshing around the Gulf. The air quality in Pensacola is as good as it gets. Which is to say, "good" is as high as it can be rated on air quality maps for the oil spill region now being published daily by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
5. Fishing continues.
Although fishing remains banned in federal waters, nearer to shore state fishing grounds remain open. From the beach we saw no fewer than a dozen boats trawling the sea, presumably within the three mile limit.
6. Future beach preview?
Under today's bright sun, the pure sand on Pensacola Beach is blindingly white. However, on the road to Ft. Pickens we've been noticing that in the wake of the frequent tidal wash-overs which the island continues to suffer (since the hurricanes '04 and '05 ) one often sees exposed in especially low-lying areas small pieces of asphalt and dark detritus left over from the old blacktop road.
Who knows? Mother Nature may well be offering us a preview of what our beach will look like a few years from now, long after the oil spill has been stopped, unless we change our ways.
Let's hope not: