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2013 January 04, Friday
Taylor Energy and MC252 (site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010)

Today we made good use of the first window of good flying weather for southern Louisiana and the Gulf in weeks. We flew out to check on the chronic oil slicks we have documented in the past -- the chronic leak at the Taylor Energy site just off the southern tip of Louisiana, and the substantial surface sheen that has appeared intermittently in the past couple of years over BP's abandoned wellhead in Mississippi Canyon lease block 252 (MC252) -- the scene of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and environmental disaster of April, 2010.

The past few weeks have seen nonstop wild weather in these parts, ranging from strong gusty cold northerly winds to storms coming up from the southwest, all causing very rough seas, almost daily rainstorms or showers, beautiful displays of clouds from scattered to dark and foreboding, and generally poor flying conditions for aerial viewing of oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico.  We expected that the strong winds and currents and heavy rains would have prevented surface slicks from holding together, and that therefore the slicks we have documented so frequently in these two areas would probably be dispersed. (Bad pun, that word, sorry!) However, despite only fair air visibility today and rough seas (4-6 ft waves), these two slicks were impossible to miss.

Taylor Energy:  The Taylor Energy slick first appears as a long white line on the horizon, then as a substantial geometric shape on the ocean surface as you approach it, generally oriented southwest to northeast.  Flying directly over it at about 1000' above, even with the rough seas, our small video camera looking out our belly viewer saw lots of rainbow sheen and thick lines of metallic gray oil, interspersed with some deep reddish-brown material -- most likely weathered oil.  Photos and videos of this area are below.  Today, this slick was about 400m wide (NW-SE) and 2 nm long (SW-NE, approximately 035°). We filed an NRC report #1034841 for this sighting after our flight. (Many thanks to Gulf Coast resident Susan Forsyth for her help in getting that submitted promptly!) Many more photos and three videos of the Taylor Energy slick are included below, thanks to the substantial help of Gulf Coast residents and enthusiastic photographers Terese Collins and Brayton Matthews.  Here are a few sample photos:

MC252 and the Macondo Prospect:  The MC252 slick also shows up clearly from a distance. Since the ENSCO 8502 drilling rig has been parked right there for over a month, it's almost impossible to miss the slick these days! There is an obvious discharge from that rig, but the large, well-defined slick to its east is clearly not coming from the ENSCO, but from its own source right there at or very near the abandoned wellhead.  The slick's dimensions are approximately 1.5 nm SW-NE, and 1 nm NW-SE. Within the light sheen, there are many “streamer” lines of shiny metallic-gray clearly visible on the surface. Many photos and a video are included below. Here are a few sample photos.  (We filed NRC Report #1034839 for this sighting.)

A few other sights of interest are included below as well -- many hundreds of birds gathered together and flying in huge V-formation southward, and some beautiful and intriguing sights in the wetlands and coastal areas.  Photos are included below (or will be by tomorrow!), and locations are given in our flight log.

T_MG_2006

T_MG_2046

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, our flight log is appended below, containing GPS coordinates of all waypoints of interest.  Also, our GPS flight track file can be downloaded here (or go to the main menu item "Flight Tracks" and download it there). Google Earth maps of our flight tracks are also included below, just above our flight log.

 

TAYLOR ENERGY photos and videos: 

 

MC252 photos and videos:

Our GPS points 0452--0455 marked the points where the sheen became less distinct as viewed from the air; seas were very rough and winds strong, so sheen visibility was not dramatic compared to previous flyovers.  Still, as our photos and videos attest, there is no mistaking the substantial amount of surface sheen persisting in this area. 

 

BIRDS and new wetlands?

BIRDS!  We saw lots of white pelicans as we flew southeastward from New Orleans over Black Bay, nesting and fishing.  And on our return flight, we were treated to an awesome sight of many hundreds of seabirds -- at least a thousand total -- on the water and flying in huge V-shapes southward. It was a thrilling sight.  

Wetlands and wetlands-to-be (we hope)!  Before we reached the tip of Louisiana, we saw lots of new land made up of dredged material, mostly sand, mixed among the marsh areas.  The winds and tides had made some beautiful lines and designs on the sand. We wondered if the powers that be are finding ways to plant vegetation or otherwise encourage its growth on these new land areas.  (We'll have these and the birds posted by tomorrow if you don't see them here yet.)

 

MAPS and Flight Log

Here are maps of our flight tracks, and our flight log:

 

***********On Wings Of Care Flight Log for 20130104-Friday ***********
                Overflight of Gulf of Mexico Taylor Energy & MC252 areas 

All waypoint numbers below refer to the GPS tracks shown in today’s article at OnWingsOfCare.org.
Times are given in CDT.  
Lat/lons are given in degrees and decimal minutes.
Personnel: Dr. Bonny Schumaker with Terese Collins and J. Brayton Matthews, On Wings Of Care
Seas and weather:  Seas 4-6 ft, 20-kt winds from the north-northeast.
Visibility: Fair.  Overcast to the southwest, scattered clouds along the route.
Flight time: 3.1 hours
Flight route: KNEW - Taylor Energy & vicinity- MC252 & vicinity - KNEW

Maps of our route showing the following waypoints identified during our flight, plus some relevant waypoints from previous flights, are in today’s article (including a link to our GPS track file and a Google Earth file).

 

Short summary:
Gulf flyover by On Wings Of Care to take brief observations of the status of the chronic Taylor Energy slick off the southern tip of Louisiana and the slick we’ve documented since early September 2012 in the vicinity of MC252 (site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 April).

*****************
2012130104 -  Waypoints of Interest

KNEW - Lakefront Airport

ADIZ crossing:  ~N28°55’, W088°52’

 

Southeastward from KNEW, across Black Bay: Many groups of white pelicans!

0446. N29 10.170 W89 11.526 1239 CST.
Lots of filled-in land with dredged sand, between remaining wetlands.  Will they plant and nourish it to encourage growth of vegetation?

0447.  N29 08.745 W89 08.853  1243 CST.
Large pleasure yacht, with a Cessna 206 floatplane on the back (N228LT, owned by Fluf, Inc. of Houma, LA), a helicopter, several kinds of boats.  A small temporary fishing camp on the marsh nearby.

Taylor Energy. About 400m wide (NW-SE), 2 nm long (SW-NE, approximately 035°).  Metallic gray with rainbow sheen interspersed and some deep reddish-brown weathered oil in places (see our belly viewer photos).
0449. N28 54.552 W88 59.451  1256 CST.
SW corner of the visible slick today. (Note:  seas were very rough and north-northeast winds at least 20 mph.  We were surprised to be able to see so much slick still today.)

0450. N28 56.200 W88 58.175 1258 CST. NE corner of the visible slick.

0434. N28 56.134 W88 54.383 
Platform, Nycor Energy MC218, south and east of the most visible portion of the Taylor slick.

MC252.
0451. N28 44.810 W88 21.874 1324 CST.
ENSCO 8502 rig. Slick is still well-defined and to the east of it.
Dimensions are approximately 1.5 nm SW-NE, and 1 nm NW-SE. Within the light sheen, there are many “streamer” lines of shiny metallic-gray clearly visible on the surface.
GPS marks 0452--0455 marked the points where the sheen became less distinct as viewed from the air; seas were very rough and winds strong, so sheen visibility was not dramatic compared to previous flyovers.  Still, as our photos and videos attest, there is no mistaking the substantial amount of surface sheen persisting in this area.


0457.  N28 58.274 W88 37.430  1401 CST.
Production platform and helicopter coming in to land as we passed by.

0458.  N29 23.330 W89 11.326  1422 CST.
Many, MANY birds, more than a thousand!  On the surface of the water, then while we passed they began departing to the south in giant V-formations.  Wow!  Very moving sight.