Waves of gooey tar balls crashed into the white sands of the Florida Panhandle on Friday as BP engineers adjusted a sophisticated cap over the Gulf oil gusher, trying to collect the crude now fouling four states.
Even though the inverted funnel-like device was set over the leak late Thursday, crude continued to spew into the sea in the nation's worst oil spill. Engineers hoped to close several open vents on the cap throughout the day in the latest attempt to contain the oil.
As they worked on the system underwater, the effect of the BP spill was widely seen. Swimmers at Pensacola Beach rushed out the water after wading into the mess while children played with it on the shore and others inspected the clumps with fascination, some taking pictures. Brown pelicans coated in chocolate syrup-like oil flailed and struggled in the surf on a Louisiana island, where the beached was stained in hues of rust and crimson, much like the color of drying blood.
"In Revelations, it says the water will turn to blood. That's what it looks like out here - like the Gulf is bleeding," said P.J. Hahn, director of coastal zone management for Plaquemines Parish as he kneeled down to take a picture of an oil-coated feather. "This is going to choke the life out of everything."
President Barack Obama was set to visit the Louisiana coast Friday, his second trip in a week and the third since the disaster unfolded following an April 20 oil rig explosion. Eleven workers were killed.