Dying, dead marine wildlife paint dark, morbid picture of Gulf Coast following oil spill
Carcass of a decomposing dolphin on rocks at Queen Bess Island in Gulf of Mexico.
Here's what President Obama didn't see when he visited the Gulf Coast: a dead dolphin rotting in the shore weeds.
"When we found this dolphin it was filled with oil. Oil was just pouring out of it. It was the saddest darn thing to look at," said a BP contract worker who took the Daily News on a surreptitious tour of the wildlife disaster unfolding in Louisiana.
His motive: simple outrage.
"There is a lot of coverup for BP. They specifically informed us that they don't want these pictures of the dead animals. They know the ocean will wipe away most of the evidence. It's important to me that people know the truth about what's going on here," the contractor said.
"The things I've seen: They just aren't right. All the life out here is just full of oil. I'm going to show you what BP never showed the President."
The day was 85 degrees, the blue sky almost white with sunshine, the air fresh with salt tang.
After checking that he was unobserved, he motored out to Queen Bess barrier island, known to the locals as Bird Island.
The grasses by the shore were littered with tarred marine life, some dead and others struggling under a thick coating of crude.
"When you see some of the things I've seen, it would make you sick," the contractor said. "No living creature should endure that kind of suffering."
Queen Bess Island was the first place where fledglings were born when the beloved, endangered Louisiana brown pelicans were reintroduced in the 1970s. Their population rebounded and was finally declared stabilized in 2002.
Now their future is once again in doubt. In what had been such an important hatchery, hundreds of pelicans - their white heads stained black - stood sentinel. They seemed slow and lethargic.
"Those pelicans are supposed to have white heads. The black is from the oil. Most of them won't survive," the contractor said.
"They keep trying to clean themselves. They try and they try, but they can't do it."
The contractor has been attempting to save birds and turtles.
"I saw a pelican under water with only its wing sticking out," he said. "I grabbed it and lifted it out of the water. It was just covered in oil. It was struggling so hard to survive. We did what we could for it.
"Nature is cruel, but what's happening here is crueler."
The uninhabited barrier islands are surrounded by yellow floating booms, also stained black, that are supposed to keep the oil out. It's not working.
"That grass was green a few weeks ago," the contractor said. "Now look. ... This whole island is destroyed. How do you write a check for something like this?"
He said he recently found five turtles drowning in oil.
"Three turtles were dead. Two were dying and not dead yet. They will be," he said.
As the boat headed back amid the choppy waves, a pod of dolphins showed up to swim with the vessel and guide it to land.
"They know they are in trouble. We are all in trouble," the contractor said.
BP's central role in the disaster cleanup has apparently given the company a lot of latitude in keeping the press away from beaches where the oil is thickest.
On Monday, a Daily News team was escorted away from a public beach on Elmer's Island bycops who said they were taking orders from BP.
BP spokesman Toby Odone denied the company is trying to hide the environmental damage; he noted BP has organized press visits to the spill zone and said BP cannot tell cops what to do.
The contractor for BP said the public needs to see the truth.
"BP is going to say the deaths of these animals wasn't oil-related," he said. "We know the truth. I hope these pictures get to the right people - to someone who can do something."