"The most critical moment in the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is at hand, as BP engineers armed with 50,000 barrels of dense mud and a fleet of robotic submarines are poised to attempt a 'top kill' maneuver to plug the gushing well a mile below the surface.
It's far from a sure bet.
'It has been done successfully in the past, but it hasn't been done at this depth,' Kent Wells, the oil company's senior vice president of exploration and production, told reporters in a conference call Tuesday.
This will be the first stab at shutting down the well since the April 20 blowout and fire that killed 11 workers on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. Efforts to capture the spewing oil have had limited success. The expanding slick has ridden a steady sea breeze onto 70 miles of Louisiana's shoreline and into shellfish-rich estuaries. The sight of oil-soaked brown pelicans is now common. Sticky rust-brown oil slathers the grass in the marshlands. Federal officials closed more fishing grounds Tuesday, bringing the total to more than 54,000 square miles, nearly a quarter of the federal waters in the gulf."
Diagram: "How the 'Top Kill' Should Work" (Washington Post)