A guest post from our correspondent Jonathan Livingston, a common-sense kind of gull who perches in an eyrie overlooking Papamoa Beach.
I see signs are going up down at the Mount, and volunteer beach oil cleaners have been advised they need to do a course before they can help - apparently clean-up volunteers must "register." The claim about the so-called “toxicity” of the oil clumps coming ashore is, I suspect, just spin to justify control.
An engineer colleague tells me from his fuel oil manual it is no more toxic than tar-seal. Maybe just a few more base metals in it than more refined oil.
The main difference between this “bunker oil” and crude, I'm told, is that crude floats. So this stuff will just go all through the ocean. My theory is that it will ultimately go somewhere else, like North Korea for example, so I am not going to worry unduly about removing the tiny little bit on my beach as I’d be surprised if it didn’t wash away in the next storm and join the rest of it.
As for the "toxic" container, try googling ferrosilicon. Doesn't look too bad to me, but the the entire beach from the Mount to Maketu is now been pronounced off-limits on account of it. Nobody knows where it is, and it is claimed that it can’t readily be identified—which is awfully convenient for the clipboard wielders. (I wonder though how they deliver these containers to their respective consignees if they cannot be identified?)
H L Mencken would probably have been able to say something about all this, but hey, he's just a silly conspiracist, right?
Interesting too to hear Leighton Smith interview the salvor spokesman this morning, who I understand was claiming to be an “expert.” Leighton asked him why the ship could not be torched. The way I heard it, the spokesman was pretty much flummoxed, lost for words, and couldn't give any answer other than to mumble something about not knowing if that was an option.
It is surely surprising the expert spokesman couldn't explain why burning is not an option (it may well not be, I don’t know). Perhaps the answer was so obvious, the notion so absurd, that the spokesman didn't need to answer the question. Leighton mentioned that someone out of the thousands of experts now in on it would have suggested it had it been an option.
As far as the oil around my own nest, there is less there this morning, most of it having washed away to North Korea over the last tidal cycle.
UPDATE 1: More from Jonathan:
I went all down the beach today. SO FAR it is pretty minimal, at the Mount you wouldn't know anything had happened, except from a few beached containers (being guarded), and one little enclave of oil eddying around near the Papamoa Surf Club. It doesn't extend far in either direction (so far), and could be cleaned up by a front end loader with a skilled operator in a few hours. Still haven't figured why it is being done by hand!
Oh, and that little micro-pocket of oil is where all the media shots are being taken of course.
Westerlies coming in over the next couple of days, so may have to make that Venezuela, not North Korea…
UPDATE 2: From NewstalkZB: “…there are more details of the hazardous goods container - one of 88 which fell overboard. Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman, Sophie Hazlehurst says it's not ferrous-silicon as first thought - but another dangerous liquid which is water soluble and not expected to cause a significant health risk at this stage.”
UPDATE 3: And in related news:
There's a sliver of good news from the salvage crew that's been all day on the Rena, after being winched aboard this morning.
Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman, Sophie Hazlehurst says their first job was to see if they could get the power going and she understands they can.
Their next step is to heat the custard-thick fuel so it thins enough to pump.
Only just now getting the power going, and the fuel-oil heaters going? You’d wonder if perhaps the right decision might have been to allow the crew to sort that out first, and deal with the arrests later. Or, perhaps, were they just arrested to proffer the illusion the government is in charge?