Though a bit imprecise, the time, approximately 9:50 p.m. on April 20, 2010, marks the end of knowing much precisely. A floating machinery system roughly the size of a forty-story hotel has for months been drilling into the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico. Its creators have named the drilling rig “Deepwater Horizon.”
Oil giant BP has contracted Deepwater Horizon’s owner, Transocean, and various companies and crews to drill deep into the sea floor 40-odd miles southeast of the Louisiana coast. The target has also been named: the Macondo formation. Giving it a name helps pull the target into our realm of understanding. But by doing so we risk failing to understand that it is a hot, highly pressurized layer of petroleum hydrocarbons—oil and methane—pent up and packed away undisturbed inside the earth for many millions of years.