Gulf Oil Spill: Photos You Haven’t Seen; Stories You Haven’t Heard

National Geographic Magazine Tackles Deep Water Drilling and Gulf’s Oil Infrastructure in October 2010 Issue

Special map supplement in magazine describes Gulf ecosystem and reveals region’s complete oil infrastructure. Both sides of the printed supplement map can be viewed online at and

National Geographic networks investigate aftermath and continuing impact of oil spill with 3 specials, including ‘Explorer: Can the Gulf Survive?’ on Nat Geo Channel at 10 p.m. ET/PT Sept. 28

Free curriculum tools help K-12 teachers explain consequences of spill

Magazine includes new science about world’s fisheries and global fish consumption

Washington (Sept. 16, 2010)—With the temporary suspension on deepwater drilling scheduled to expire Nov. 30, and the U.S. Senate expected to take up off-shore regulatory legislation this fall, National Geographic magazine’s October issue offers balanced perspective on how the Gulf ecosystem works and its complex oil infrastructure. 

The Sept. 2 explosion of the Mariner Energy offshore oil platform 100 miles south of Louisiana is a reminder that the Gulf remains vulnerable to accidents on the nearly 3,500 drilling platforms in operation there today. National Geographic offers objective, big-picture context, laying out the factors at play in determining future developments for the region’s industry and the recovery of its natural resources, including a detailed map showing the vast oil infrastructure in the Gulf on one side and describing how the ecosystem of the Gulf works on the other. The map forms the basis of online curriculum that the National Geographic Society is offering free to K-12 teachers, to help them integrate learning about the Gulf into their classrooms:

Also in the October issue, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle writes about her lifelong connection to the Gulf of Mexico as part of an introduction to a larger initiative supported by National Geographic and other partners to bring attention to the impact of human activity on the overall health of the world’s oceans. Complementing her essay is first-time-ever-published analysis of global seafood fishing data, revealing the world’s top 20 fish-extracting countries and the top 20 fish-consuming countries.

The print edition of the magazine is available on newsstands Tuesday, Sept. 28, and an e-version of the magazine will be available on iTunes on Friday, Oct. 1, including an interactive version of the map supplement. Sept. 28 also marks the National Geographic Channel premiere of two specials about the spill, “After the Spill: The Last Catch,” bringing viewers the personal stories of men and women in the fishing town of Venice, La., (9 p.m. ET/PT) and “Explorer: Can the Gulf Survive?”, illuminating the unfolding scientific story of the spill’s consequences — including never-before-seen footage of the BP control room when they kill the well. A third special, “Saved from the Spill,” about the ecological impact of the spill, will air on Nat Geo WILD on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

More Information
National Geographic Magazine: Along with two articles describing the overarching story of the spill and its impact on coastal life, the magazine offers a rich trove of graphics to provide better understanding of the current and potential scope of deepwater drilling around the United States and the world. Veteran environmental journalist Joel Bourne reports the October cover story, which summarizes factors leading to the April disaster and reveals what needs to be considered as the region copes with recovery. His past stories have covered weaknesses in New Orleans’ rebuilt hurricane protection system and oil exploration on Alaska’s North Slope. In a 2004 feature on Louisiana’s wetland loss, Bourne accurately predicted the devastation of a Katrina-like storm 10 months before the hurricane hit. His recent Gulf reporting for National Geographic’s news website can be found at Bourne is available for interviews.

Also featured in the October issue are never-before-seen photographs demonstrating the toll oil has taken on plankton, the foundation of the ocean’s food chain. In addition, Paul Greenberg describes new research supported by the National Geographic Society and the Pew Charitable Trusts that reveals a global seafood “footprint” that measures what the world takes from the ocean, based on individual countries’ fishing and consumption patterns. 

National Geographic Channels: Even though the massive Gulf oil leak has been capped, the loss of income, impact on citizens’ ways of life and damage to wildlife and the environment continue. Now, the networks of National Geographic premiere three specials dedicated to the Gulf Coast struggles, which have reverberated throughout the country: On National Geographic Channel, “After the Spill: The Last Catch” (Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 9 p.m. ET/PT) opens a window into the desperate personal stories unfolding in the fishing town of Venice, La., whose way of life has been devastated by the oil spill; “Explorer: Can the Gulf Survive?” (Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 10 p.m. ET/PT) goes beyond the disaster’s emotional toll to illuminate the scientific impact of the massive spill. And on Nat Geo WILD, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Mireya Mayor and underwater cameraman Andy Casagrande join the race to save and study pelicans, sea turtles, dolphins and many other creatures trapped in the oily, sludge-covered waters in “Saved from the Spill” (Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT).

K-12 Online Curriculum: Curriculum developed by National Geographic Education is free to educators and based on content from the map supplement in the October issue of National Geographic magazine, footage from National Geographic Channel and news coverage from It includes a sampling of activities that teachers can do with students to explore how oil impacts mangroves and birds, how sea turtles are impacted by the relocation of their nests, and other topics. 

In late September, National Geographic Education will distribute copies of the magazine supplement via its Geographic Alliances in all 50 states as well as to science and social studies teachers at educational conferences throughout the fall. This work was made possible with the generous support of Oracle.

Curriculum can be found online at, beginning Sept. 16. Teachers interested
in using an interactive edition of the October issue can purchase a single copy at a special discounted rate.
Plight of Oceans
The National Geographic Society, the Waitt Foundation, Sylvia Earle’s SEAlliance along with strategic government, private, scientific and conservation partners including the TEDPrize, Google and IUCN, are beginning an action-oriented marine conservation initiative under the banner of “Mission Blue” that will increase global awareness of the urgent ocean crisis and help to reverse the decline in ocean health by inspiring people to care and act; reducing the impact of fishing; and promoting the creation of marine protected areas. For more information, go to