At 2:25 PM CDT on Thursday, 15 July 2010, a test of British Petroleum’s latest attempt to cap the leak at its Deepwater Horizon drilling site shut off all oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time since the April 20th blowout began releasing some 60,000 barrels of crude per day.
The greatest man-made natural disaster in the nation’s history, with hundreds of millions of barrels released in the intervening three months, the spill was the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez accident every four to seven days, creating an oil slick covering an estimated 2500 square miles, with additional vast underwater plumes of oil stretching for up to ten miles, floating from the well site.
This is not the end for this disaster, which has already cost BP $20 billion for a fund to compensate businesses and workers devastated by loss of income due to the spill. It is not even the beginning of the end for the clean-up, but perhaps, in Churchill’s famous phrase, it may be “the end of the beginning,” a stop to the continued and ongoing damage wreaked by the worst environmental disaster in the western hemisphere. BP’s total cost for clean-up, fines, and legal fees is expected to reach $100 billion, and the impact of this spill will be felt for years, if not decades.
When the Deepwater Horizon well experienced a violent blowout at 10 PM CDT on 20 April 2010, few expected the ramifications would be so sweeping and devastating. Originally, the company estimated that no more than 1,000 barrels of oil was leaking per day. Within ten days, that figure had been revised upwards to as much as 5,000 barrels per day, and as additional data came in, those estimates rose higher and higher, until by June 15 BP admitted the spill could be producing as much as 60,000 barrels per day, a disaster several orders of magnitude greater than anticipated.
Up until the July 15 capping, the fourth attempt of its type, all proposed fixes proved to be dismal failures, or half-measure, partial successes. Early attempts to use robotic equipment to close the blowout preventer values on the well head, nearly a mile below the surface of the Gulf, failed dismally. By April 30, oil had come ashore in Venice, Louisiana. On May 7 a giant, 125-tonne containment dome was lowered over the leak, but frozen methane gas at its top made this ineffective, and on May 9th tar balls were discovered on an Alabama barrier island. Within the next week, a smaller containment apparatus known as a “Top Hat” also failed, as did the “Junk Shot,” an attempt to push mud and debris into the pipe to clog it. On May 29, BP’s “Top Kill”, a plan to force feed the pipe with heavy drilling mud, also failed, and on June 4 tar balls reached the beaches of Pensacola, Florida. In early June a plan to slice the leaking pipe, re-cap it and funnel the oil to ships on the surface proved partially effective, reclaiming up to 5,000 barrels per day, less than a tenth of the total leaked daily.
On July 10 this cap was removed, preparatory to the installation of a more effective device, allowing oil to spill unchecked for two days, until on July 12 a new capping stack was installed, followed by a 40-tonne containment apparatus which effectively sealed the well when testing was begun on July 15. On July 19 some minor seepage was reported, but the well remains capped. Work continues on the drilling of two relief wells, intended to plug the pipeline with cement under the surface of the sea, before the break at the well head, which is expected to be completed in early August.
A chart cast for the blowout on April 20 is remarkable for the preponderance of semisextile aspects, most of them exact. The semisextile is a relatively minor aspect, formed by two planets which are thirty degrees apart, thus in successive signs.
Adjacent signs, although the one is the natural progression of the other as we journey through the zodiac, have nothing in common, thus there is no basis for interaction. They do not share polarity (positive/masculine or negative/feminine energy), nor modality (Cardinal, Fixed, or Mutable), nor element (Earth, Air, Water or Fire); there is no common ground from which to build a relationship. There is neither harmony nor dynamic tension, but a sense of frustration, difficulty and discomfiture, which often manifests as “no win” situations or choices.
This is certainly the case for the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the chart for which sports Pluto (devastation, environmental disaster, vast wealth) at 5 Capricorn (business ventures) retrograde in exact semisextile to the 5 Sagittarius (exploration) Ascendant (how something is seen, its image). We see the Moon (the public, affected populations) at 22 Cancer exactly semisextile asteroid Vesta (security concerns, the public weal, service to others) at 22 Leo, and Sisyphus (endless repetition of a task, futile effort) at 23 Leo. Neptune (the ocean, oil, toxins) at 28 Aquarius is exactly sextile Uranus (technology, explosions, accidents) at 28 Pisces. Asteroid Nemesis (karmic undoing) at 5 Cancer is exactly semisextile the 5 Gemini Descendant (interactions with others). A chain of points runs from Damocles (the doom hanging unheeded overhead) at 21 Aquarius to Jupiter (exploration, hubris, over-optimism, greed) at 21 Pisces, to TNO Eris (strife, discord, fractiousness) and asteroid Psyche (loss), both at 21 Aries, ending with TNO Sedna (isolation, the deep sea) at 21 Taurus.
Of these points, Pluto, the Ascendant, Neptune and Uranus are all exactly conjunct Black Holes, ramping up the instability and unpredictability in the situation, and granting it a virtually unlimited power to alter the existing reality—this moment in time forms a doorway between radically opposed sets of circumstances, and what has come after is wholly unrecognizable from what went before.
Pluto/Ascendant speaks to the havoc wreaked, not only to the environment, but to the lives of countless thousands whose livelihoods and lifestyles are devastated by the spill, as well as the unchecked plutocracy, or rule by the wealthy, which enables corporations to evade even their most basic responsibilities to society in the quest for greater profits.
Drilling permits were routinely rubber-stamped for BP, whose blueprint for dealing with the after-effects of any disastrous accident in the Gulf of Mexico included the preservation of sea lions and seals, Arctic species unknown in the Gulf, and which referred interested parties to a specialist who had been dead for over five years.
Scheduled reviews and inspection forms were penciled-in by BP employees, then inked over by government regulators, allowing BP to continue to operate despite more than 700 safety violations and an $87 million fine levied by OSHA in 2009, the largest such fine in the agency’s history.
Pluto is traveling with asteroid Karma at 9 Capricorn, which opposes the 8 Cancer Quasar: corporate lawlessness and government collusion and mismanagement have combined to bring about a fated, inevitable consequence which is impossible to ignore, plain for all to see, a pervasive manifestation having extensive ramifications, for BP as well as the victims of this tragedy. Pluto/Karma is further squared Pelion/Industria at 7 and 8 Aries, indicating the steep uphill climb (Pelion) and assiduous, focused effort (Industria) required to make things right, if indeed such an outcome is possible.
Moon/Vesta/Sisyphus reflects the shattered security of Gulf residents, as well as both the repeated and fruitless attempts to cap the well, and the monumental clean-up operation, which has barely begun and will require massive efforts by paid and volunteer workers focused on public service. Neptune/Uranus is perhaps the most revealing, linking the ocean, toxins and oil with explosions, accidents and technology, and providing, in true semisextile style, that overriding sense that there is no simple solution, that all avenues of relief or redress of the circumstances are fraught with complications and difficulties.
Additionally, Uranus opposes Saturn at 29 Virgo retrograde, linking government regulation and controls (Saturn) with technology and a rebellious attitude that refuses to conform to, or even acknowledge, the rules (Uranus). Neptune is closely partnered with asteroid Icarus at 25 Aquarius, exactly conjunct a spotlighting Quasar, indicating rash, reckless actions, heedless of the consequences (Icarus), which are unavoidably brought to light in the public eye (Quasar). BP was aware for days before the accident that trouble was brewing, but management insisted on forging ahead with production despite the warning signs. The cause for this reckless behavior is not hard to discern—with Venus at 25 Taurus in exact square to Icarus, money and acquisitiveness is at the root of this evil.
The Sun at 0 Taurus also highlights the theme of acquisitiveness, as well as a dearth of values, with that Sun opposed the Black Hole at 29 Libra, sucking the ethics out of the situation. Asteroid Pandora at 3 Taurus in conjunction with the Sun indicates the unleashing of unintended consequences which have far-reaching, lasting repercussions. The Sun is also moving to oppose asteroid Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, at 8 Scorpio retrograde, which is itself exactly squared Mars at 8 Leo, suggesting an entrenched, embattled stance for BP, and a sea-based struggle of gargantuan proportions in the aftermath of the disaster.
Mercury at 12 Taurus is paired with centaur Asbolus, named for a mythic seer, at 14 Taurus, both squared the Maser at 14 Leo and the Black Hole at 13 Aquarius. The data to make an informed decision (both Mercury) about the well’s safety was there, the signs were clear to read (Asbolus), but BP management chose to deny reality (Black Hole), with explosive, volatile and controversial (Maser) results.
When the well was finally capped on July 15, the Sun at 23 Cancer had just crossed the Moon of the blowout, forming a New Moon-like combination which provided a fresh beginning and an opportunity for new direction. A further indication of potential healing of this national wound is the exact semisextile from Chiron at 0 Pisces to Uranus, now at 0 Aries, bringing an end to the active disruption (Uranus) phase of the event.
There remains the assessment of the damage, which with Mercury at 11 Leo now in square to its blowout degree of 12 Taurus, is likely to be even harsher than expected, more fraught with challenge and struggle. Lending credence to this is an exact square from Jupiter at 3 Aries to Pluto at 3 Capricorn, magnifying or increasing (Jupiter) the scope of the devastation and environmental disaster (Pluto), and indicating that now that the immediate cause has been eliminated, the politics (Jupiter) of the situation come to the fore, with all its attendant issues of manipulation and control (Pluto) of the message.
As such, the continued PR offensive by BP, a likely futile task, is prefigured in the exact semisextile from asteroid Sisyphus at 13 Virgo to the Midheaven (reputation, public image) at 13 Leo, appropriately conjoined the controversy-provoking, agitating Maser at 14 Leo, indicating the public’s likely reaction to BP’s efforts to burnish their tarnished image.
Next comes the clean-up, the importance of which is reflected in the now angular opposition from asteroid Poseidon (the sea) at 8 Scorpio, on the 10 Scorpio Ascendant, to asteroid Industria (hard work and focused application) at 9 Taurus on the 10 Taurus Descendant. A further indicator is provided by the Moon exactly conjunct Vesta at 18 Virgo, within orb of both Mars at 21 Virgo and Sisyphus at 13 Virgo: the local populace (Moon) will need to focus their energies and actions (both Mars) on service to others and the pubic weal (both Vesta), in what will often seem a thankless, fruitless, endless task (Sisyphus).
Pelion (uphill battles, insurmountable difficulties) combines with Heracles (Herculean effort, heroism) at 9 and 6 Aries, forming a Yod, or Finger of Destiny, with inconjunct aspects to both Venus (resources) at 5 Virgo and Pallas (applied wisdom, strategy) at 5 Scorpio. There is hope in this configuration, but it is nevertheless likely to be a long, hard slog before the residents of the Gulf can return to any semblance of normalcy in their lives, if indeed that day ever comes.