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CNN Live Event/Special

Rescue: Saving the Gulf

Aired July 24, 2010 - 20:00   ET




MARCIANO (on camera): How much of a mess does that look like? And it hasn't even started skimming yet.

MARCIANO (voice-over): -- what does it take to skim oil?

MARCIANO (on camera): They're lifting the skimmer up and are placing it inside that boom and get it to go to work.

Is that one oil?

MARCIANO (voice-over): To rescue wildlife?

MARCIANO (on camera): All right, getting yourself - sorry this is uncomfortable.

MARCIANO (voice-over): To save our beaches?

MARCIANO (on camera): This feels like it would take forever.

MARCIANO (voice-over): I'm CNN's Rob Marciano, and I went shoulder to shoulder with the hard-working men and women who are cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico. Join me as I join the people fighting this disaster.


MARCIANO (on camera): Skimming oil. It's been a big player in cleaning up this mess, but I have yet to see them skimming oil up close and personal. So we're going to hitch a ride to a U.S. Coast Guard skimming vessel and scoop us up some oil.

Sir, I'm Rob Marciano, CNN.

STEVE ROSS, U.S. COAST GUARD: Steve Ross. Nice to meet you.

MARCIANO: Steve, can you give us a lift?

ROSS: Absolutely.

MARCIANO: All right. Let's do this.

MARCIANO (voice-over): We were heading for the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Elm, which was performing cleanup operations off the Alabama coast.

ROSS: (INAUDIBLE) we're going to run.

MARCIANO (on camera): That's pretty darned fun.

How gorgeous is that? Thunderhead, back lit by a setting sun. Awesome.

You got any advice for me in skimming oil? Any pointers? Any tips?

ROSS: Don't fall in.

MARCIANO: That's the best you've got?

ROSS: That's it. Get a bunch of it.

MARCIANO: I'll do my best.

ROSS: The more you can, the better off we all are.

Killing time (ph), Coast Guard cutter Elm, where do you want me?


ROSS: Roger that. Port.

MARCIANO: What's it telling you?

ROSS: To pull up on his port side.

MARCIANO: That's the left?

ROSS: Left. You got to remember that.

MARCIANO: That much I got. That's about it.

How are you all doing?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doing good. And yourself?

MARCIANO: Better now. You had a long day so far?


MARCIANO: Look like you've been working.

Look at the size of that boat. I mean, now that's a ship, one of the many Coast Guard vessels out here trying to clean up this mess, and we're about to get a taste of how they do it.

Hi there.


MARCIANO: This boat's much sturdier. I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's actually just (INAUDIBLE).


MARCIANO (voice-over): Our visit began with a quick tour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). I want to squeeze in.

MARCIANO (on camera): Sleeping arrangements. Come check it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's cleaner than the - the view (ph).

MARCIANO: It's going to be tight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Head on up to the bridge, to yell (ph) up there.

MARCIANO: Up to the bridge.

MARCIANO (voice-over): It was time to meet the captain, John Kennedy.

MARCIANO (on camera): Sir, I'm Rob Marciano, CNN.

COMMANDER JOHN KENNEDY, USCG CUTTER "ELM": I heard you're ready to get your hands dirty.

MARCIANO: Yes, I am.

KENNEDY: I think we got a job for you.

MARCIANO: You do, huh?

KENNEDY: Yes, we do.

MARCIANO: Does - does it include oil?

KENNEDY: It does include oil.

MARCIANO: All right, well -

KENNEDY: In abundance.

MARCIANO: I'm willing to do my part. You guys have worked hard enough.

KENNEDY: Very good. We're glad to have you.

MARCIANO: Can you show me where we are right now?

KENNEDY: Sure. We are just southwest of Pensacola, about eight or nine miles, and then first thing in the morning we'll be getting the deck ready and are - probably have a barge alongside that we're going to pump to directly tomorrow, if the weather is good, and it should be a good day.

MARCIANO: Well, thank you. We'll - we'll see you in the morning. KENNEDY: Very good.

MARCIANO (voice-over): But before we turn in for the night, I get a sense for what's in store for me.

MARCIANO (on camera): Wow. So this is the first taste I've got of - of a skimming vessel. All the equipment that they're pulling out right now is completely caked in thick, heavy crude.

This is just a mess. Smell the oil. Hot, 30 (ph) and the sun's not even up. I can't imagine these guys doing this for 10, 12-hour shifts in the heat of the day. These guys are - are busting it to try to clean up the gulf.

What is that thing up there?

SEVILLE RASMUSSEN, USCG YEOMAN: We're bringing down the skimmer right now. We're bringing on the hose. We're making out (ph) the hose, and it's going to drop the skimmer right there, so we can wrap it up in plastic to contain the oil, because tomorrow morning it'll - it'll heat up and it will be all liquid, make a big mess.

MARCIANO: So that's the main - the vacuum that's been sucking up the oil all day?

RASMUSSEN: Yes. That's the skimmer.


MARCIANO: Look at the size of that boom they're pulling out of the water right now. The crane, it's just all much, much bigger than I ever imagined. It's amazing.

This is where I'm going to be working tomorrow, and it's an intimidating, messy thought.

MARCIANO (voice-over): When we return -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, reveille, reveille, reveille. Up, up, (INAUDIBLE).

MARCIANO (on camera): Are you kidding me?

MARCIANO (voice-over): An early morning.

MARCIANO (on camera): The sea's out of control.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Turns into one of the longest days of my life.

MARCIANO (on camera): Oh, man.

MARCIANO (voice-over): And then -

MARCIANO (on camera): Is that one oiled?

MARCIANO (voice-over): It's a race against time, saving wildlife from the oil spill.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, reveille, reveille, reveille. Up, up, all (INAUDIBLE) now. Your SX45 (ph) reveille.

MARCIANO: Are you kidding me? Reveille, reveille, reveille.

Can I get a scoop of eggs and just a little bit of hash browns, please? Thank you.

MARCIANO (voice-over): I'm on the U.S. Coast Guard ship Elm, joining the crew as they skim up oil from the gulf. It was time to report for duty.

MARCIANO (on camera): So this is the main deck where all the action was happening last night and will be happening later on today. These tanks behind me, this is where the actual oil is stored after they scoop it up off the water.

Not even 8:30 right now, and it is just smoking hot already. Look at that nasty boom. That was pulled out last night after skimming operations and will be put back in the water later on today.

Right now we're cruising south at about 10 knots. The crane is stowed, at least for now. We're looking for oil.



KENNEDY: Ask him how much time on scene they have, because we may need them to have to come back and help us relocate this stuff at some point.

MARCIANO: Good morning, Captain Kennedy.

KENNEDY: Good morning.

MARCIANO: Got a (ph) good night's sleep, but what's on the docket today?

KENNEDY: Well, we're on the hunt to try to find some oil about 10 miles south of Pensacola, Florida this morning. Several aircraft will be up and communicating with us, trying to put us on the stuff that will most likely to get the most of and people (ph) get to the beach.

MARCIANO: Yesterday, when we came in, the stuff you were scooping up just seemed unbelievably thick and - and muddy. Is - is that normal? KENNEDY: The closer it is to the spill site and the less time spent in the water, the more runny, like motor oil it would be. The longer it's been in the water, it looks like what we came into last night, which was more like half dried paint.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Skimming oil is a team effort.

KENNEDY: The key to finding oil is air support. The oil lies flat on the water, so when you're on the water it's like look - trying to find a piece of paper lying on the table while you're looking straight at the same level as the table. From a ship, a large slick, we can maybe see it at 1,000 yards. The aircraft, they're looking straight down on it.

MARCIANO: The Elm was commissioned in 1998. Its regular job, putting buoys in the water for navigation.

That's Chief Engineer Paul Winchell. He's going to show us the underbelly of the ship, and it starts with going down this hole, something I've never done before.



MARCIANO: Thanks for having us down here, man. Is this where it all happens? This is kind of the engine room, I guess?

WINCHELL: Yes, it is.

MARCIANO: All right. Let's do it.

Basically, two 3,000 horsepower engines feeding that one propeller shaft that's powering this boat?

WINCHELL: That's correct. Yes.

MARCIANO: That's amazing. Awesome.

It's unbelievably loud in here. It hurts. You need that.

It's almost 120 degrees. That's hot. And I'm feeling every bit of it.

Is this your work bench? Is this where you fix stuff?

WINCHELL: This is the work bench where we try to fix stuff at.

MARCIANO: Why is the work bench in the hottest, loudest room on the ship?

WINCHELL: You get used to it after awhile.

MARCIANO: Are you kidding me? You get used to working down here? Because, right now, I'm burning up and my head's spinning. WINCHELL: You get used to it. It's really not that bad right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nobody out.

MARCIANO: I learned two things in that engine room. One, 120 degrees is really hot, and, two, it's not easy to read lips.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Resolute's here off our starboard bow.

MARCIANO (voice-over): The Elm's crew had located an oil slick and was preparing to start skimming.

KENNEDY: The slick that we're looking to set up on is just off my port bow at about a thousand yards.

MARCIANO (on camera): Hi there.


MARCIANO (voice-over): Before I could help, the ship's medical officer had to make sure I was fit for duty.

MARCIANO (on camera): What are some of the things I need to keep in mind if I'm wearing a Tyvek suit?

LEONARD: Heat exposure is definitely the most important thing, so you want to watch and make sure you're not losing too much - like you're sweating too much, light headed, dizziness, headache, stuff like that.

MARCIANO: No threat of - of dying from inhaling these fumes?

LEONARD: Not immediately. There are some other long-term consequences of being exposed. There are stuff such as leukemia, skin cancer, skin irritation, stuff like that.

And you are good to go to Tyvek suit.

MARCIANO: That's it?

LEONARD: That's it.

MARCIANO: Harmless.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Well, I passed my examination, and it was time to get to work.

MARCIANO (on camera): All right. Before we get back onto the deck where there's going to be some action, we moor off to another vessel, I've got to put some safety gear on.

These are basically rubber gloves that are made for your boots. I'm not sure how easy they are to get on, but we're going to give them a shot. I feel tough. But I also feel miserable.

Safety first. Life jacket back on. Last, but not least, some rubber gloves. Let's go.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Our first task, secure a massive barge to the cutter. The Elm's tanks were full, so we were going to use the barge to hold the oil we skimmed up.

MARCIANO (on camera): BOSN Taylor's on deck here. He's going to be telling me what to do today. What's the main piece of advice you can give me?

CWO RYAN TAYLOR, USCG BOAT SWAIN/BOSN: Stay safe. Don't walk between a hard spot and the gear. Always keep your eyes on anything that's in motion up in the air.

We use press lines that should keep us pretty much parallel with them.

MARCIANO: So you're able to line it up like that and hang out for the entire day?

TAYLOR: Yes. We'll be towing them at a slow pace.

We'll pump right from the skimmer into the barge.

MARCIANO: This process of saddling up to this barge is taking a lot longer than I expected. But when you got two vessels of this size trying to kiss, basically, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, it's no easy task.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE), looks like that buoy's looking pretty good. Do you want me to make it up?

TAYLOR: Yes. Take on the slack. Make it up.


MARCIANO: Once the barge was in place, we had to lash the two vessels together.

We're just trying to tighten up the slack here?

TAYLOR: Take all the slack out.

MARCIANO: I don't know if I'm helping. But then you make this as tight as possible. I can feel the tug pulling against me.

TAYLOR: We're about as good as we're going to get there.


Just doing that for 20 seconds. I'm exhausted, bro. We haven't even started.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three-one-four. Sounds good. MARCIANO: This whole process has taken hours. I mean, we're almost at - into the afternoon and we haven't skimmed a thing or even deployed any sort of skimming equipment.

It's given me a - a real appreciation what -- for what these guys are doing every day. You think you just come out here, you drop some boom and throw a vacuum cleaner on it and suck up the oil. There's so much more to it when you're talking about a project of this scope and a mess this big that needs to be cleaned up. It's painstakingly slow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get it tied off and then we'll - we'll pull the hose.

MARCIANO (voice-over): When we return -

MARCIANO (on camera): Unreal how hot it is out here right now.

MARCIANO (voice-over): -- skimming oil -

MARCIANO (on camera): And I can't even hold it on there.

MARCIANO (voice-over): -- hurts.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon, everyone.

Time now for your headlines, and the first headline, breaking news in Afghanistan. Two American soldiers are missing and intelligence sources are telling CNN they were abducted. NATO forces are mounting a search right now.

An Afghan intelligence source says the missing troops were captured by militants in Logar Province. This comes on top of news that five more U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan.

We also have breaking news in Eastern Iowa to tell you about. That's where residents of a small town only had minutes to evacuate after a dam broke. The Lake Delhi dam failed as a result of excessive rain. Massive amounts of water quickly flooded homes and businesses in Hopkinton, just north of Cedar Rapids. The National Guard has been activated.

Tonight, in the Gulf of Mexico, the ships have turned around and are headed back to the Deepwater Horizon drilling site. Now that once tropical storm Bonnie has lost its clout, crews can get back to work finding a permanent fix to the ruptured oil well.

Officials say the static kill, which consists of pumping dense mud into the well, could start in less than a week.

And we're monitoring a developing situation for you in North Korea. Pyongyang is threatening to use nuclear deterrents if the U.S. and South Korea go ahead with joint military exercises which are expected to start in the next few hours. So far there has been no troop movement in the north.

Fifteen people are dead and at least 15 others hurt after a stampede in Germany. The victims were caught in a tunnel trying to get into a techno music event called Love Parade 2010. Police are trying to block anyone from entering when the panic started.

Those are your headlines right now. RESCUE - RESCUE: SAVING THE GULF continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming at it real slow with the right rudder on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Helm's in (ph) left full rudder.

MARCIANO (voice-over): The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Elm is in the Gulf of Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where we are right now.

MARCIANO: Getting in position to skim the water and clean up the gulf.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) what has got into the oil and if they find any that we'll certainly pass (ph) that up the chain of command.


MARCIANO: I've already spent time out on the hot deck of the ship, but before I could really help out, I needed to put on some serious protective gear.

MARCIANO (on camera): BOSN told me to put on the chicken suit. They call it that because it's yellow. And it's the Tyvek stuff to keep you away from the nasty stuff which we're about to go to work in.

If I wasn't hot enough already with cotton coveralls, I'm really going to lose some weight.

All right. Let's skim some oil.

MARCIANO (voice-over): The crew was preparing to lower boom into the water. This would be used to surround and capture the oil floating on the surface.

MARCIANO (on camera): Actually, using the equivalent of a leaf blower to blow up these booms and get them filled up with air, like balloons. How much of a mass does that look like? And it hasn't even started skimming yet.

So what's the process?

CWO DAVID HANSEN, USCG DECK SUPERVISOR: First, you got to make sure that that isn't tangled, lift it up off the deck and just get it down in the water.

MARCIANO: So this is a dance between you, the crewmen, BOSN man, the crane operator and the cockpit?

HANSEN: Right. Exactly.

MARCIANO (voice-over): With the boom in the gulf, we needed to move a skimmer hose into position so it could go into the water as well, but trying to work on a pond of oil isn't easy.

HANSEN: Hey, ask them if they could back down a little bit. All right, hook it up right to the skimmer. Be careful. It's slick, that's for sure.

MARCIANO (on camera): I mean, I'm just standing here and I'm moving.

HANSEN: Yes. It doesn't get any better either.

All right. We want to bend that hose out at 90, and we're just going to take all three of them.

That should work. All right. You all come out of there.

MARCIANO: You get absolutely no leverage working in this stuff, and that's not light. Three guys just to move it that far, sliding and slipping all over the place.

They're lifting the skimmer up and are placing it inside that boom and get it to go to work. Three floaters surrounding one vacuum that floats on the surface to suction the oil. My task is to make sure the rope doesn't get tangled, which I think I can handle, but I've said that before.

How much slack do you want me to keep on it?

HANSEN: Just about how it is, and if that line gets a knot in it or something, just let me know.

HANSEN: So oil that's (ph) sticky and slick at the same time, and this rope is extremely hot. If I keep my hands on it for more than five or six seconds, it starts to burn through the gloves. Unreal how hot it is out here right now.

Man, I can't even hold it on there. It's like grabbing a cookie sheet out of the oven.

HANSEN: Need me to come down some?

MARCIANO: What else is there to do? I can do some more stuff.

HANSEN: Hang onto that line, then. We're just trying to get people out of the suits before they get into heat exhaustion.

MARCIANO: This is one of the ropes. One of the lines is going to hold it to the boat, and they're just going to let it drift out there.

HANSEN: Oh, don't - don't throw that overboard.

MARCIANO: Messed up again.

So they just lower the skimmer. They tested it and disconnected it. Now they're going to let it drift to the back there, and as the oil gets skimmed, it gets funneled back there and sucked in. And we'll be doing that all afternoon.

That's it. I'm getting out of this suit, I'll tell you that.


MARCIANO: This heat's out of control. You lose about 10 pounds in 10 minutes.


MARCIANO: A big puddle just came out of my glove and I'm wondering where it came from. That's sweat, isn't it?


MARCIANO: Oh, God. That feels good. I've never been so hot in my life, ever. Oh, man.

That's never tasted so good.

We've been told by the chief to get some AC and some lunch. That sounds pretty good to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you have fun (ph)?

MARCIANO: Got it. Thank you.

The guys in the suits were banned from the kitchen because we're too sweaty and dirty. So this is - this is the kiddie table at Thanksgiving.


MARCIANO: What are the tips to staying cool in that suit? Anything?


MARCIANO: I noticed the two of you aren't overweight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely not.

MARCIANO: Been here 20 minutes now, a half hour, but just now my heart is starting to get back to normal beating. I was out there, it was starting to race. I really was starting to sweat and for the first time in my life I felt that - like I was getting overheated. And I was only in that suit for 20 minutes.

These guys are tough. Tougher than me.

MARCIANO (voice-over): Coming up next on RESCUE: SAVING THE GULF -

MARCIANO (on camera): You wondered about whether or not the fish went through the oil. There's your proof.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got to get your hand in there.


MARCIANO (voice-over): And later -

MARCIANO (on camera): Oh, my goodness. That feels weird.

All right. How about that? Is that far enough?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. You're good. Do it slow.



ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm on the U.S. Coast Guard cutter "Elm" joining the crew as they skim oil from the Gulf. So far it's been tough. It's been dirty, hot, loud, sticky, painful, and the work never stops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just going to -- and then we'll keep the right rudder on.

MARCIANO: Working the vacuum right now. The other side of that wall is a skimmer. The oil is so thick right now they're having a hard time actually getting it into the mouth of the skimmer, so chopping up the water is helping a little bit.

But you can see most of it is just sitting there and it's sucking in more water than oil. It's been the problem they've had the past couple of days. On a good day, how much oil do you think you can get off this water?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if we're going right to the barge, the skimmer's capable of 440 gallons a minute.

MARCIANO: Four hundred forty gallons a minute? That's a lot.


MARCIANO: What was your best day so far during this whole operation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, I'm not really keeping track anymore.

MARCIANO: It all blends in day-to-day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day is Monday when you're on your way.

MARCIANO: It's got to be grinding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can be. You wear down. It's nice when you pull in for a couple days rest.

MARCIANO: You're doing great work.


MARCIANO: The "Elm" has been skimming in this location for less than two hours, but there are reports of a bigger oil slick about four miles away.

We're just trying to get this last fit in and get the gear back onboard to go to another spot. We need to move and pull up all the equipment we just got in the water. How frustrating is it to have to pull this stuff back in right after we put it out?

JESSE DECKER, USCG DAMAGE CONTROL: It's a little frustrating. Like I say, we got -- they told us there's a bigger spot up forward, four miles away. We'll go there.

MARCIANO: You don't care if somebody else has to suit up. I know it's just not you.

DECKER: Yes, I did hesitate on that one. I looked back and make sure someone else is jumping in on that one.

MARCIANO: I didn't step forward either. But as we got to work a reminder of what's at stake.

DECKER: There's a fish. Got fish down there.

MARCIANO: A couple of fish swimming right past the skimmer. See them? Spotted fish right past the skimmer. A whole school of them actually. If you wondered whether or not the fish went through the oil, there's the proof.

DECKER: Where are we setting it?

MARCIANO: Does that not look like a monster out of a movie? It's indescribable. I can't even begin to predict how long it would take to clean it all up. The past five minutes with that thing, it's been raining clumps of oil on to the deck.

And just waiting for more to drop off so that it's relatively clean when it gets here. With the skimmer out, pulling up the boom was next. I was sent up to help with the ropes. We're just here to make sure it doesn't get tangled?


MARCIANO: A normal mission is maintaining buoy, cruising through some beautiful water. How does that make you feel when you see this oil in the Gulf of Mexico?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the hardest part down here we saw a couple sea turtles that were covered in oil and the dolphins that are playing, but they're playing in the oil. They think they're having fun. MARCIANO: You're cruising through the oil and dolphins are paying no mind and going right through it, too?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last night, we saw a big school of fish. As soon as we pulled up the boom, they were all swimming underneath it.

MARCIANO: How do you get up every day after skimming all day long and the next day, you've got to skim some more and then the next day, there's still just as much oil in the Gulf of Mexico? Do you feel like you're just not getting anywhere?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is frustrating and the only thing that I think keeps us going most of the days we see it in the tanks. You know that whole tank is 15,000 gallons of all oil. It does make you feel better.

MARCIANO: Making some progress?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they say there's a ton more out there. But you know on your shift, you've collected some and your day has been good.

MARCIANO: My shift with the "Elm" was almost done. I headed back to the bridge to say good-bye to the captain. What struck me was how time consuming the process is. You get the boom equipment out there, you get the skimmer out there, you start finally skimming and sucking up some oil, even the oil you are sucking up is pretty heavy. You're really wrestling with it to get it into the tank. That was surprising to me.

COMMANDER JOHN KENNEDY, USCG CUTTER "ELM": Yes. I mean, having never experienced spilled oil on the water, I wasn't sure what it would be like.

You kind of get the vision that it's a big black blob out here and you sail around and it's all over the place, but it's not. It's hundreds and hundreds of small oil spills that frankly are hard to find.

MARCIANO: You guys are one of the heroes in saving the Gulf of Mexico. Do you think about that on a daily basis?

KENNEDY: When you think about it in the context of, yes, we're doing an important thing in helping people out, it helps your attitude get back in the right perspective that needs to be in.

MARCIANO: So the days you're tired, getting worn out, you think, hey, you know, we're out here saving the Gulf of Mexico time to get back to work.

KENNEDY: That's right.

MARCIANO: Take care. Really enjoyed it, guys.

KENNEDY: Have a good one.

MARCIANO: Be safe. There it is. U.S. Coast Guard cutter "Elm." I spent the night and day with those guys, tireless, and it was quite an eye opening experience. Skimming oil and cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico, saving the Gulf, is not an easy business. Those guys would get it done.

Next, a never-before-seen look into the process of saving the Gulf's wildlife from rescue to rehab to release.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon this hour. Here are your headlines this hour. We begin with breaking news in Afghanistan.

Two American soldiers are missing. Intelligence sources are telling CNN they were abducted. NATO forces are mounting a search right now. An Afghan intelligence source says the missing troops were captured by militants in Logar Province. This comes on top of news that five more U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan.

We're also following other breaking news this one is in Eastern Iowa where residents of a small town only had minutes to evacuate after a dam broke. The Lake Delhi dam failed as a result of excessive rain, massive amounts of water quickly flooded homes and businesses just north of Cedar Rapids. The National Guard has been activated.

Tonight in the Gulf, the ships have turned around and are headed back to the deep water horizon -- the deep horizon drilling site. Now that once Tropical Storm Bonnie has left, has lost its clout, crews can get become to work finding a permanent fix for that ruptured oil well. Officials say the static kill, which consists of pumping dense mud into the well could start in less than a week.

And we're monitoring a developing situation in North Korea. Pyongyang is threatening to use nuclear deterrents if the U.S. and South Korea go ahead with joint military exercises, which are expected to start in the next few hours. So far there has been no troop movement in the north.

Those are your headlines. "Rescue: Saving the Gulf" continues right now.

MARCIANO: If there's any doubt as to why we need to save the Gulf of Mexico, just spend one early morning here in the marsh. It's so peaceful and serene. I'm on the Mississippi Delta, my first stop on a journey to rescue, rehab, and release wildlife affected by the Gulf oil spill.

The landscape is spectacular and you mix in the wildlife, the birds and other creatures that live here, it is just an amazing place. I'm looking for birds coated with oil along with my guide, Sara (Ressing), of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We'll try to capture those in the most trouble and bring them back to shore to be cleaned.

SARA RESSING, U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE: Our goal is once to get them to fly if they land in the water. They can get heavy with the oil on them because they don't have water proofing and then if they're slow to fly off the water we can float next to them and pick them up with the net.

MARCIANO: Do you see anything?

RESSING: Lots of pelicans.

MARCIANO: So our first stop is this batch of pylons here where pelicans like to hang out, so there's an oiled pelican near them, we'll try to grab it. But right now we haven't seen much. Suddenly, a prime candidate comes into view. Look at that guy. See that one's dark.

RESSING: That's an oiled bird.

MARCIANO: Sara, do you see that one? Is that one oiled?


MARCIANO: Our companion boat tries to flush the pelican down to the surface. So they're trying to keep him off the pylons and get him to a spot where they can get at him. He definitely doesn't look happy, holding his wings out, looks like he's kind of short of breath. It's just heartbreaking.

This bird won't cooperate. The team makes a tough decision, leave him in the wild for another day and try again tomorrow. I feel empty leaving that bird behind. Do you ever feel like when you leave an oiled bird or two behind you're leaving a man down?

RESSING: Yes, yes. I feel that way right now. That little guy really needs our help but it wasn't a good idea to pick him up today. So I promise we'll be out tomorrow and that little guy is on my mind all night long.

MARCIANO: You promise you'll get him tomorrow?


MARCIANO: Sara kept her promise. They found the same pelican in the same place and took it to safety. Here is where they're taking them. Once they're rescued, they're taken to this center to be cleaned, checked up and hopefully be released back into the wild.

This is where a lot of action happens. It's called the International Bird Rescue Research Center, a Louisiana warehouse converted into a wildlife mash unit. The center is a nest of activity. Birds are cleaned up, given full medical exams, fed, and taken care of prior to their release.

When we visited, the center had tended to more than 600 birds from the large to the small. We're just going to visit the little guy, a quick visit.

JAY HOLCOMB, INTERNATIONAL BIRD RESCUE RESEARCH CENTER: Here's what they look like when they're clean. You guys are so cute.

MARCIANO: On my visit, I met Lynne Englebert. She's become kind of a bird bartender, mixing up bird flurries to nurse her patients back to health. This is packed with calories and other sorts of vitamins and nutrients?

LYNNE ENGLEBERT, BIRD WORKER: All sorts of good stuff for birds.

MARCIANO: What about people?

ENGLEBERT: If you're willing, I'll get you a glass if you'd like to try some.

MARCIANO: I'll pass on that. Actually, I couldn't resist.

ENGLEBERT: There you go.

MARCIANO: It's delicious. It was time to put our drink to a better use, feeding a young pelican.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like that, OK. The lower bill stretches.

MARCIANO: My goodness. Look at that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you see glottis in there? That's their airway. You cannot get any fluids in there.

MARCIANO: Am I doing OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to want to go further. You have to get your hand in there.

MARCIANO: OK. My goodness, that feels weird. How about that? Is that far enough?


MARCIANO: Now just squeeze it.


MARCIANO: All right, guy, you're getting your stuff. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, so you want to pull it out and then you want to grab both of the bills together and you're going to grab her neck and push all the way down.

MARCIANO: That's not hurting her at all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nope. She's not fighting you at all.

MARCIANO: Is that good -- good enough? Wow. That was incredible. I just fed her like a sick baby. I can't believe you get to do that every day. I'm shaking, that's such an incredible feeling.


MARCIANO: That pelican has been here a while, but almost ready to go home. Just had his final blood work done, going to hopefully get the green light from the vet. Right now, he's going into the holding pen with the other clean birds. These guys are almost ready.

They're about to be released back into the wild. And that's the next stop in my journey as well, releasing rescued birds far away from the oil spill. Exciting day, isn't it, Dr. Mulcahy?

DAN MULCAHY, USGS WILDLIFE VETERINARIAN: Yes, this is going to be the largest release to date of pelicans that have been taken in as a result of oiling from the oil spill. We'll release up to 40.

MARCIANO: The birds were loaded on to a Coast Guard plane for a quick flight from New Orleans to the Texas Gulf Coast. One more peek at the baggage compartment, precious cargo today.

By the way, I'm the only reporter that gets to go on, so I'm pretty psyched. I have to tell you, it smells pretty bad on this airplane, but at least it doesn't smell like oil. These birds are probably as clean as they've ever been. And by the end of the day, they'll probably be happier than they've been the past couple of months.

Now comes the process of off loading these animals and getting them to ground transportation, driving 45 minutes away to a wildlife refuge where they can hang out with other pelicans. We're all lined up and ready to go. Let's do it.

We headed for the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, 115,000 acres of beautiful Texas coastline and a natural home for brown pelicans. This is exciting.


MARCIANO: Yes. Fly, pelican. These guys don't want to go. Come on, guys. You've got it. That was the last one. Forty one of them made the trip with us. To see them come full circle like that, in the beginning oiled, rescued, rehabilitated and released back to where they belong, that's just an incredible feeling.

When we return, cleaning oil off the shoreline. Whew, that's hot, when the beach feels like the surface of the sun. What am I doing out here?


MARCIANO: That's me, miserable. I'm in Perdido Bay, Florida along the Gulf Coast. My job, to clean up this normally pristine white sand from the oil spill. I'm hot. I'm sweaty. Soaked. And I'm overwhelmed at the task ahead. Saving the gulf inch by inch, foot by foot, beach by beach. My day started before dawn.

I appreciate everybody here this morning. I found myself in the parking lot getting an early morning briefing from the Adam (Higgins), the manager of the cleanup site.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Be cool. Remember the buddy system, right? We are our brother's keeper.

MARCIANO: A lot of people here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, great job, guys.

MARCIANO: I have to find somebody to tell me what to do. Adam, hey, I'm Rob Marciano.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rob, nice to meet you.

MARCIANO: Nice to meet you. So you're in charge of this operation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. Put on this shirt here and you're ready to work.

MARCIANO: I'm ready. The first thing I noticed on my trip to the cleanup site, it was hot, really hot.

ADAM HIGGINS, PERDIDO KEY SITE MANAGER: When it gets up in the middle of the day, you'll see that the heat index will be over 100.

We are out here working in heat like these guys here and rubber boots, rubber gloves, long pants, shirt, there's no shade out here, just sun.

MARCIANO: I have my sunscreen. There are some tar balls to be picked up. I think it's going to be a work day. After suiting up, time to go to work. Are you in charge of this group?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the foreman.

MARCIANO: He's the boss, my boss, and for today, at least for now, you're my buddy as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.

MARCIANO: I picked up a broom and got started. Just trying to lightly brush it --


MARCIANO: So you don't take that much sand. This requires the touch of a surgeon trying to get these little tiny tar balls off the beach without taking a ton of sand. It's not easy.

The sand in the oil is piled up, shoveled up, and then placed in a plastic bag to be disposed of. I feel bad that I'm taking that much sand but there's just no way else to get it. The sand here on these beaches is precious. I don't want to take too much.


MARCIANO: You'd rather have a clean beach with a little less sand than a beach that's got a bunch of oil on it. This feels like it will take forever. The day fell into a rhythm all its own, sweep, shovel, bag, sweep, shovel, bag. Twenty five pounds feels like 50.

My fingers right now are basically submerged in sweat. By the way, it's 8:25, and it -- it's not cool. On top of that, I'm supposed to carry it away from my body because the bag technically is contaminated. Everything that seems would be a simple cleanup has not been simple at all. I knew it would be hot but all these rules and regulations has made this a big, giant pain in the -- well, my back side's to the ocean.

Let's get some more dirt. We kept working and working taking frequent breaks to drink water and get out of the blazing sun. Just sweating so much out here. The sheer enormity of the task at hand became painfully clear. Cold. That's sweet. And so did the realization -- that's good -- of how hard a job this really was. It's not even 9:00. I'm dying.

Morning turned into afternoon. Bag after bag of heavy sand piled up. It's definitely getting more difficult. The sun kept beating down on us as we worked. That's hot. What am I doing out here? Saving the Gulf means cleaning 100-yard stretch of beach today and then coming right back tomorrow to do the same thing when more oil washes up onshore.

It's a battle showing no signs of letting up and one which will need to be fought until the last drop of oil is cleaned up. That's it. We did it, a full day here on the beach with these guys. Here you go, Robert. I appreciate it, man.

These guys do it every day. I never thought it would be this difficult. These are just some of the heroes doing their part to save the Gulf of Mexico.