Pensacola Beach: From Dolphins & White Sand to Oil-Soaked Disaster

After spending several days in Venice, La. last week with National Wildlife Federation Naturalist David Mizejewski, I drove to Pensacola, FL to meet up with NWF’s Steve Murchie. As I entered Pensacola Beach, I was greeted by this sign proudly proclaiming Pensacola Beach as home to “the world’s whitest beaches.” (A local told me that in recent years, aware of how the original slogan could be misconstrued, he’s also seen “the world’s cleanest beaches” used.)

At the time, Steve and I had to take a boat 20 miles offshore to find wildlife struggling in the BP oil slick. On our way back, we cruised past those white sand beaches that seemed to glow from a distance. We were joined by dolphins playing in our boat’s wake — first a few, then more joined until we were surrounded by than a dozen dolphins:

That’s why it was so disturbing to see this news today:

Florida saw its worst impact yet from the BP oil spill as thick oily sludge washed ashore on Pensacola Beach on Wednesday and emergency workers found an oil-covered dolphin stranded on the shore.

State emergency workers said the pudding-like mixture covered 3 miles of Pensacola Beach, a barrier island that is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Watch as the pollution appears to be changing the way waves interact with the shoreline — and notice the thick layers of sludgy oil on the once-white sand:

For all the latest news on how the oil spill is impacting the Gulf Coast’s wildlife and to learn how you can help, visit