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The Devastated Wetlands: Photographer Gerald Herbert on the Oil Spill's Deadly Toll

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A bird dies after coming into contact with oil. See more of Herbert's photos and a timeline of the spill by clicking on the image above. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

Last night, PBS's NewsHour dedicated a segment to AP photographer Gerald Herbert, who's taken powerful photographs of the wildlife affected as oil makes its way toward the Louisiana coast. The photos aren't new: NEWSWEEK used his shot of a dying bird in our oil-spill-timeline gallery.

But seeing them flashed on the screen while Herbert gives context for the photographs he has shot is especially heartbreaking. Take the photo of an oil-slicked bird leaving a brown stain on the hull of a ship as he flaps at it with his wings:

I could see this bird languishing in the water, and he was pecking at the hull, trying to get in. And he had no way of getting in, and he was completely inundated in oil. And this was right at the spill site. So, you could imagine that the plume was coming up right there. And he was just getting the full impact of that oil as it was coming to the surface.

And it was a pretty sad sight to see that bird. He worked his way around the hull, and he went around the front, and I never saw him again.

Herbert is also one of the photographers quoted in Matt Philips's NEWSWEEK piece investigating whether the Coast Guard and BP are limiting journalistic access to some of the most damaged areas. It's these areas where the effect on the wildlife is the most apparent and the most devastating, and where documentation is needed most. 

Though it looks like BP has had early success stopping the flow of oil into the ocean via a top kill, this segment is an excellent reminder that the most serious consequences of this disaster are only just beginning.

 

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