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PICTURES: The Gulf Oil Disaster One Year Later PICTURES: The Gulf Oil Disaster One Year Later PICTURES: The Gulf Oil Disaster One Year Later PICTURES: The Gulf Oil Di...

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PICTURES: The Gulf Oil Disaster One Year Later

: PORT SULPHER, LA - JUNE 19: An oil stained pelican sits on a dredging hose in Barataria Bay June 19, 2010 near Port Sulpher, Louisiana. The BP oil spill has been called one of the largest environmental disasters in American history. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images(Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

April 19, 2011

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One year ago, an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers, sinking the rig, and releasing a massive amount of crude oil into the ocean. Nearly 4.9 million barrels of oil (200 million gallons) are believed to have leaked into the Gulf, fouling shorelines, crushing local economies, and damaging the environment to an extent that's yet to be fully determined. Studies are ongoing, focused on issues such as dispersant effectiveness and long-term health effects on humans and animals -- and litigation is ongoing, with more than 300 related lawsuits recently consolidated for a trial, beginning in February 2012, that will assign fault in terms of percentages to BP and other companies. Now, one year later, discovering the full extent of the disaster remains difficult, hampered by the scale of the affected area, the volume of the oil and differing explanations of what happened to the bulk of it, and criminal and civil litigation. These images give both a look back and a current view of the area affected by the largest accidental oil spill in history.

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this photograph taken on April 21, 2010. (Reuters/U.S. Coast Guard)

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning in this aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice, La., on April 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

In this April 21, 2010 file photo, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A boat works to collect oil that has leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico on April 28, 2010 near New Orleans. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Oil floats on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana, April 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A dispersant plane passes over an oil skimmer as it cleans oil in the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana on April 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

A pod of Bottlenose dolphins swim under the oily water of Chandeleur Sound, La., on May 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Smoke billows from a controlled burn of spilled oil off the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico, in this handout photograph taken June 9, 2010. (Reuters/Petty Officer First Class John Masson/U.S. Coast Guard)

Crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill washes ashore in Orange Beach, Ala., on June 12, 2010. Large amounts of the oil battered the Alabama coast, leaving deposits of the slick mess some 4-6 inches thick on the beach in some parts. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

A young heron sits dying amidst oil splattering underneath mangrove on an island impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Barataria Bay, just inside the coast of Louisiana, on May 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) coastal scientist Angelina Freeman takes a sample of oil while surveying the conditions of Barataria Bay near Venice, La., June 6, 2010. (Reuters/Sean Gardner)

Reuters photographer Lee Celano photographs oil floating in a marsh near Pass a Loutre, La., May 20, 2010. (Reuters/Matthew Biggs)

NASA MODIS satellite image, taken May 23, 2010, of the Gulf of Mexico shows the extent of the oil released from the Deepwater Horizon spill. (Reuters/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

A bird is mired in oil on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast on June 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Deep sea corals on the bottom of the northern Gulf of Mexico, not far from where BP's underwater oil well blew out on April 20, seen in September of 2010. Scientists are studying whether the crude damaged the corals or will lead to long-term impacts. (AP Photo/Discovre Team 2010)

Vessels assisting in the drilling of the Deepwater Horizon relief well float at sunset on the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana, on September 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

In this November 11, 2010 photo, Courtney Kemp, 27, widow of Roy Wyatt Kemp, 27, who died in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, cries as she talks about her life with him, in Jonesville, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Rain falls on oil sheen on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil well leak off the coast of Louisiana, July 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A Northern Gannet seabird, affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, is cleaned by rehabilitators at a rescue center facility set up by the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in Fort Jackson, La., July 1, 2010. (Reuters/Sean Gardner)

The damaged blowout preventer from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is extracted by the Q4000 vessel from the Gulf of Mexico in this photograph taken on September 4, 2010 and released on September 5. (Reuters/Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Blue/U.S. Coast Guard)

Hundreds of cranes and vessels at a standstill on the calm waters of Port Fourchon, on December 3, 2010, in Golden Meadow, La. The typically bustling port was slowed after the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/Kerry Maloney)

Healthy Roseate Spoonbills fly over Cat Island in Barataria Bay near Myrtle Grove, La., March 31, 2011. (Reuters/Sean Gardner)

Tulane University population ecologist Jessica Henkel sets up a net to catch migrating birds for blood, fecal, and feather samples on Fourchon Beach in Port Fourchon, La. on April 1, 2011, as part of a research project looking for long-term, not immediately lethal effects from the BP PLC oil spill on birds that stop along the Gulf Coast during their migration. "It's much easier to see a dead pelican on the beach" than it is to see more chronic population-wide effects, Henkel said. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Workers clean oil left over from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on March 10, 2011 at Perdido Key State Park in Pensacola, Fla. With Spring Break approaching, crews continued to work to remove leftover oil from beaches along the Gulf Coast. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

A great blue heron stands on oil containment booms being used to protect the beach area from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on June 7, 2010 in Pensacola, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Darlene Kimball, owner of a seafood distribution company, greets a visitor to her office in Pass Christian, Miss., on March 29, 2011. Kimball, who had a large, unpaid claim for damage as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, was dismayed by the way local governments spent BP funds. (AP Photo/Jason Bronis)

A dolphin that was named Louie after he arrived at the Dolphin Research Center swims in a pen as Cara Field, Associate Veterinarian Audubon Nature Research Institute, New Orleans, La., interacts with him on February 8, 2011 in Marathon, Fla. The dolphin was found on September 2, 2010 washed up on Port Fourchon beach in Louisiana with oil on its skin from the Gulf oil spill. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Oiled and dead marsh grass due to the BP oil spill mixes with new growth along the banks of Barataria Bay near Myrtle Grove, La., on March 31, 2011. (Reuters/Sean Gardner)

A dead endangered sea turtle is seen after it washed ashore and was flipped over by an activist April 16, 2011 in Pass Christian, Miss. Local turtle activist Shirley Tillman said she had discovered 20 dead sea turtles in Mississippi in the month of April alone and suspects they are dying due to the effects of the BP oil spill. Endangered sea turtles and dolphins are still dying in high numbers in Mississippi, which continues to be impacted by tar balls and weathered oil. The National Wildlife Federation reports that sea turtle strandings on the Gulf Coast were seven times the normal level in March. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The sun sets over wetlands on April 13, 2011 in Barataria Bay, La. Barataria Bay and its fragile wetlands was one of the hardest hit areas in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Hans Holbrook, of LaPlace, La., stands in the marsh while holding up a speaker playing bird songs as he looks for birds during the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas bird count on the Gulf Coast in Grand Isle, La., on December 22, 2010. 60,000 bird watchers fanned out across the Western Hemisphere during the winter holidays to count birds in their regions and submit checklists for the Audubon Society's 110-year-old tally of birds at Christmas. (AP Photo/Sean Gardner)

Guests enjoy fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico during "Supper on the Sand: A Celebration of the Gulf." at the Gulf State Park Pavilion in Gulf Shores Ala., April 17, 2011. Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri hosted the 500-seat dinner on the beach celebrating the area's resiliency as the one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill approached. (Michael Spooneybarger/ AP Images for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism)

A worker scans for oil left over from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on March 10, 2011 at Pensacola Beach, Fla. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham holds up a clump of oil and dead marsh grass from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, as he tours oil impacted areas of Bay Jimmy with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, in Plaquemines Parish, La., January 7, 2011. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster remains in marshes off the coast of Louisiana, where officials have renewed complaints about the cleanup effort by BP and the federal government. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Institute for Marine Mammal Studies veterinary technician Wendy Hatchett lifts a dead bottlenose dolphin that was found on Ono Island, Ala., and brought for examination to Gulfport, Miss., on February 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Researchers from the Audubon Institute, The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Institute, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries release sea turtles that had previously been impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, back into the Gulf of Mexico, 45 miles off the coast of Louisiana, on October 21, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Footprints are seen on the beach March 10, 2011 in Pensacola Beach, Fla. With spring break approaching, crews continued to work to remove leftover oil from last spring's Deepwater Horizon oil spill from beaches along the Gulf Coast. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Price Billiot stands on his fishing dock in the American Indian fishing village of Pointe-Aux-Chenes, La., on January 28, 2011. Even before oil began spewing into the Gulf of Mexico last spring, Louisiana's American Indian fishing villages were on the brink of collapse because of social change and the dramatic loss of coastal wetlands. Now, Indians who have known nothing but fishing all their lives find their futures tied to Kenneth Feinberg, the man handing out checks for billions of dollars of damage claims resulting from the spill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The sun reflects off of the blue water at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and oil spill almost one year later, in the Gulf of Mexico, 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana on Sunday, April 10, 2011. The ugly stains of last summer are mostly fading memories in what seems like a testimony to the resiliency of nature. But that's just the picture from the shimmering surface, where looks can be deceiving. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


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