Infographic(s) of the Day: BP’s Success Minor in Context of Spill’s Spread

Infographics that illustrate all the weekend’s news about the leak.

Over the weekend, BP managed to staunch a small portion of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. That’s been the only successful measure to fight the leak so far, but it’s only a partial fix. BP didn’t cap the well–the so-called “top hat” containment dome has been scrapped.


Rather, they threaded a four-inch pipe into the leaking well’s 21-inch mouth. As BP illustrates, it’s a little bit like sticking a straw in the mouth of a fire hydrant:

Gulf oil spill

Next up: An attempt at a “junk shot,” which would drop golf balls (yes, golf balls–hey, Titleist, branding opportunity!) into the leak, in attempt to slow it down so that mud and eventually concrete could be poured over it.

But meanwhile, take a step back: We’ve seen lots of news about the leak, but so far we haven’t seen the types of horrifying damage reports and pictures that followed the Exxon Valdez. Why not? Dumb luck, as this infographic by The New York Times shows.

Here was the leak five days after it began:

Gulf oil spill

On May 10:

Gulf oil spill

And here it is, as of yesterday:

Gulf oil spilll

As you can see, the spill its tickling the edges of sensitive areas all up and down the Gulf. The only things preventing it from hitting them have been lucky winds and currents. While this all is surely going to make for a riveting season two or three of Treme, these infographics make it clear this is a disaster that will impact generations.

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.