GULF OF MEXICO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Helping collect the oil that has already polluted the ocean, is a Hawaii-based U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, 'Walnut'.
Hawaii News Now is hearing from the crew for the first time since they left the islands in May.
These are pictures taken by the Hawaii crew on Cutter Walnut.
They say the days have been rough, and the Gulf oil disaster is overwhelming.
"There's a lot of long hard days out here. Some days we have more oil than we can skim and other days we have to go out hunting for the oil," said Walnut Executive Officer, Lt. Andrea Holt, by phone from the Gulf.
At 225 feet long, the Walnut is designed after the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. It's equipped with a boom and pump oil collection system. The vessel left Hawaii on May 30th to help skim oil off the Florida coast. On its way, it ran into trouble.
"We actually had encountered a narcotics drug bust so we stopped the vessel, stopped a couple hundred pounds of cocaine from entering Central and South America," said Lt. Holt.
Still, the Walnut made it safely to its destination in 23 days.
Lt. Holt says they've have never seen anything like this, and for them, the environmental catastrophe hits home.
"Being from Hawaii, I think our crew has a really strong sense of community and especially respect for the ocean and her beaches and the way we look at it is, any oil that we collect, that's less oil that's going to end up on the folks of the Gulf shores," said Lt. Holt.