Earth's deep blue waters turned a Mars-like red after a nighttime explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20. Eleven men died in the blast. Rescuers safely evacuated the remaining 115 workers from the waters nearly 50 miles off the coast of southern Louisiana.
The next task was formidable: Rescue the Gulf. Workers for BP-the company leasing the rig at the time of the explosion-spent 87 days trying to stop the oil that began gushing 5,000 feet below the surface at a peak rate of 62,000 barrels a day. The worst offshore oil spill in history produced a swirling oil slick the size of Delaware.
The spill also produced political havoc as coordination crumbled between BP officials and the federal government. The Obama administration announced a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling, though locals warned the ban would cost thousands of jobs in an already-beleaguered economy. The government lifted the ban in October, but industry workers said murky regulations still cripple new work.
Fans began lining up April 2 at Apple CEO Steve Jobs' hometown store in Palo Alto, Calif. Employees handed out Krispy Kreme doughnuts to more than 200 people, but what the early birds really were after was an iPad. Tablets once accounted for a fraction of a fraction of the personal computer market, but by launching its latest product with new touch technology and an abundant choice of applications, the personal computing giant sold 7 million iPads by year's end.
A Tennessee woman jeopardized the efforts of thousands of Americans to adopt children from Russia when she put her 7-year-old son on a plane to Moscow with a knapsack bearing candy, magic markers, and a typewritten note: Torry Hansen said the boy she adopted from Russia had severe behavioral problems, and that she didn't want to be his mother.
Russia's reaction was swift: Authorities said they would halt all American adoptions of Russian children until U.S. officials signed a new adoption accord with Russia-an agreement that was still in process in December.
On April 5 Tommy Davis said goodbye to his son Cory after lunch. "I looked at Cory Boy, and I said, 'I love you, boy,'" Davis told The Wall Street Journal. "I love you too, old man. I'm going to go in and cut me some coal." Cory descended about 1,000 feet underground at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, W.Va. Three hours later an explosion-likely brought on by high methane levels in the shaft-killed 29 miners, including Cory, his cousin, and Tommy Davis' brother Timmy. The blast was the deadliest at a U.S. coal mine in 40 years and triggered criminal and civil investigations. On April 25 President Obama delivered the eulogy for the dead at a memorial service in Beckley, W.Va.
When the Iceland volcano with the unpronounceable name (Iceland embassy spokesmen said it was "AY-yah-fyah-lah-YOH-kuul") erupted for the second time in less than a month, it melted ice, shot smoke and steam into the air, and forced hundreds to flee rising floodwaters. The cloud of ash it sent across the Atlantic forced the cancellation of flights and disrupted air traffic across northern and western Europe, stranding thousands of passengers in what became the worst disruption in transportation since World War II.
One of those stranded: Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, whose few scheduled hours of interview time with Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings turned into days of idle hotel time in Paris and then Berlin (reached by bus). It was enough time for Hastings to take notes as McChrystal and his staff made disparaging remarks about Obama officials, comments that lead President Obama to relieve him of his command on June 23, shortly after the magazine article appeared.