USA TODAY US Edition
Jimmy Buffett’s Gulf rescue mission
Special boats will work to save trapped animals
Singer Jimmy Buffett and two friends are hoping their new rescue boats could help save birds and marine life under threat from the nation’s worst oil spill.
The boats are specially designed to traverse shallow marshlands, the breeding grounds for a wide variety of wildlife off the Gulf Coast.
“ Essentially we sketched something out on a cocktail napkin and came up with the idea,” says Mark Castlow, a boat builder in Vero Beach, Fla.
That was on the second day of the disaster, he says, as he watched images of the spill on television and saw the need for a boat that could reach the shallow waters of Gulf Coast estuaries.
Castlow shared the idea with his friend Buffett, who agreed to underwrite the cost of the $ 43,000 boat, he says. “ I called Jimmy, and he says: ‘ Let’s go for it. Let’s do it,’ ” Castlow says. “ He’s like all of us. He’s got saltwater in his veins.”
Shortages of equipment to help contain the oil — and rescue wildlife — have been a recurring problem since the explosion April 20 on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, says Carys Mitchelmore, an associate professor at the University of Maryland Center
Changes in latitudes:
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Jimmy Buffett walk along Pensacola Beach, Fla., in early June. Buffett is bringing specially designed boats to the region to help rescue animals trapped in oil. for Environmental Science.
“ If they can get into those shallow areas and rescue anything that might be oiled, that’s great,” says Mitchelmore, who has testified before Congress on oil spill pollution issues. “ If anybody can help out, I think that’s a great idea, especially if it’s not going to be costing anything.”
Buffett, who graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1969, met with school president Martha Saunders this month to brainstorm ways he might help, says Beth Taylor, the university’s news and media relations manager.
The songwriter then decided to donate the first boat to the university’s Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Miss. It’s expected to be delivered late this week or next week, and Castlow says there are plans to build three other boats of the same type.
The boat is needed, Taylor says, because the lab’s boats are not able to navigate waters as shallow as 10 inches deep like the new one being donated.
“ Our boats are larger, and they can’t skim around in that shallow water,” she says. “ It will be used by our researchers and our graduate students to go out in the estuaries and marshes.”
Castlow and Jimbo Meador, a friend and colleague at Castlow’s Dragonfly Boatworks, designed the S. W. A. T. boat — an acronym for Shallow Water Attention Terminal — with a misting system to keep injured wildlife cool after being brought on board in the Gulf ofMexico’s summer heat.
“ A canopy encloses the entire boat, and that’s a big deal because now you can work under shade and misting,” Castlow says.
That “ sounds like a great idea, because you could do triage right there,” says Ed Verge, the lead boat-building instructor at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, N. C.
Madilyn Fletcher, director of the University of South Carolina’s School of the Environment, says reducing the stress on injured wildlife is key to helping animals recover, and the idea sounds sensible to her.
“ Anything that you can do to save these damaged birds is all for the better, and the more you can do to reduce the stress on them while you are trying to do that is all for the better, as well,” Fletcher says.
As of Monday, 724 visibly oiled birds had been rescued off the coasts of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, according to the Consolidated Fish and Wildlife Collection Report, which tracks numbers reported by government agencies and rescue centers to the Unified Area Command in the spill zone. Another 247 oiled birds from the five states have been found dead.
“ When you see something that is decimating what you do for a living — what you love — it just tore everybody up,” Castlow says. “ We just thought, ‘ We’ve got the ability to make a difference here.’ ” Martin writes for the
in Sioux Falls, S. D.