Last week as photographer Chris Rogers and I headed to Key West for a photo shoot, the news media was reporting tarball sightings in the Conch Republic. I'm no expert in geography, but I wondered: How could the oil reach Key West before the Gulf coast? It seemed implausible.
The locals assured us there was no oil in sight. And when we got there, we found nothing but clear, beautiful water as we explored the massive off-shore sandbars and seas around Key West with guides from The Kite House, one of the country's top kiteboarding schools. Three days on the water, not a tarball in sight. (The dark spots in the photo below are marine plant growth on the sandbar where we waded.)
The reports were later refuted by Coast Guard tests that showed conclusively that the tarballs gathered in Key West did not match the type of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Media corrections were issued, but the damage was done. The false alarm caused trip cancellations and frustrated business owners who depend on tourism to make a living.
So before you cancel any trips based on media reports, please consider calling a few destination locals — surf shops, restaurants, or the local Convention and Visitor's Bureau — for another source of information. And if you're a local on the coast in question, please keep us posted, by adding a comment here or through Facebook or Twitter , on the state of your beaches.
Photo: Courtesy Chris Rogers Photography