Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gulf Dead Zone

My latest article is out! Dead Zone. When fertilizer-laden runoff from the Mississippi River empties into the gulf, algae thrives — and marine animals die.

It opens:

I'm in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico on a modified shrimp boat, the R/V Sabine Lake, and a trawl net's worth of ocean catch has just been unceremoniously dumped on board. A pile of slimy, silvery things squirm and flip around a square tray, but the large iridescent eyes of a dozen or so little squid enthrall me. I watch as small dots on their whitish-clear bodies pulse and expand as they turn rust-red. The pulsating dots are called chromatophores, TPWD biologist Kirk Blood tells me as he picks through the catch, counting and measuring each organism.

And later down in the piece when I define the dead zone:

Also known as a zone of hypoxia, the dead zone is an amoeba-like blob of oxygen-deprived water that stretches down the Louisiana and Texas coastline and has blighted the Gulf of Mexico for at least the past half-century. Hypoxia sounds like a Harry Potter killing curse to extinguish ocean life — Hypoxia kedavra! A pox on your ocean! A pox on your fish! All those things that lie on the ocean floor — your clams and sea stars and polychaete worms and freakishly colored nudibranchs — death to them all! And that is pretty much what it means.

This piece is for the Annual Water issue (July) for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, which focuses on The State of the Gulf of Mexico. Last year they did The State of Lakes, in 2006 they did The State of Wetlands, in 2005 they did The State of Springs and in 2004 they did The State of Rivers. I've had one or two features in every water issue since 2004. I've been writing for the magazine since 1998, and it's had a series of editor turnovers but my current editor has been there for some time now and he's really been a dream editor, that editor who really gets - and likes - your unique style and allows your voice to shine through, and who champions you as a person and writer. He's a great guy.

I have a second piece in this magazine also that is a sidebar to Elaine Robbins article "Hidden Giants" on sperm whales. My sidebar is "More Unusual and Elusive Gulf Creatures" and you have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see it. But in the magazine it's got a lot of cool color photos!

2 comments:

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

First-rate article. I've linked to it on my blog. Congrats on another fine piece of work.

WENDEE HOLTCAMP said...

Thanks Scott! It was a fun piece, and an important topic!