IN THE GULF OF MEXICO — The ocean caught fire.As it blazed, a dense column of black smoke rose toward the sky. Oily water, the colour of strong tea, slopped up the sides of boats. The breeze carried an acrid smell, like gasoline fumes.
Aboard the research vessel F.G. Walton Smith, anxiety was growing.
Five scientists and six students had come to study the oil leak and its effect on the sea. They brought flasks and gloves, refrigerators and freezers, tiny tools and huge cylinders of gas.
They were not looking for oil on the surface, where it was so thick in places that it was being burned off, but for plumes of fine oil droplets far beneath the waves.
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