Black Tides

<B>Black Tides<B>

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Date Added: Tuesday 08 July, 2008

by Kirkus Reviews

An illuminating, albeit willfully and ...
... irritatingly rustic, excursion through the recent history of oil spills and the development of rapid response teams to the events, from one of the people who goes around cleaning up after them. Hayes taught coastal geomorphology in Massachusetts and South Carolina for a number of years, happiest, as he recounts here in outtakes from his diaries, when in the field, taking in cuspate forelands and varves and tide-dominated embayments. But it was with the breakup of the tanker Metula off Tierra del Fuego that he found his calling: mapping coastal waterways to fashion contingency plans in the case of oil spills and later in hot-response situations. Hayes conveys a modicum of the nuts and bolts of his tradecraft, formulates a set of basic behavioral principles of oil-spill types, and details the growth of his business, the characters involved, the bureaucratic nonsense he must endure, and his private tribulations (including a couple of nasty plane crashes). All of these take a back seat, however, to the widely scattered venues and record-breaking spills he has rushed to—barge dumps, well-head blowouts, unscheduled tanker off-loadings—from the Amoco Cadiz to the Exxon Valdez to the apocalyptic release in Kuwait. In a studied effort to strike a yokel posture, Hayes overplays the down-home music, and the feeble, emphatic stabs at humor—""I'm only superhuman, you know!"" is typical—begin to feel like an occupation army. Yet rising to the light through all the twanging is a clear sense of how rapid-response teams have developed sensitivity indices to handle oil spills. Major oil spills are viscerally revolting—elemental blots on the landscape—but by giving them a readable character, Hayes's well-documented attempt to orchestrate slick-fighters so that they can protect the most delicate habitats first makes them yet another triage unit on the environmental front. (17 b&w photos, 11 maps)
Kirkus Reviews Copyright (c) VNU Business Media, Inc.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars! [4 of 5 Stars!]

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