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Gulf of Mexico Overflight 2011 Mar 20 Sunday

Today we heard rumors that the oil we had seen south of Grand Terre Island had something to do with a "massive oil slick" that had been observed south of Dauphin Island and was believed to becoming from a deepwater rig known as the "Matterhorn", about 20 miles west of the BP Macondo well.  Unable to confirm this rumor, we decided to flight directly to the Matterhorn and from there to Dauphin Island.
We did that, and we saw no evidence of any large-scale oil spill at all.  This evening we learned something that seems a little closer to the truth...

The Matterhorn rig was quiet and clean, and nowhere on it was "Matterhorn" identified (but our current aviation charts do show it, and we went to the exact latitude and longitude provided for that platform).  There were two ships nearby, one of which had "Texaco" on its side.  Seemed a 'red herring', no pun intended.

The waters south and southwest of Dauphin Island seemed normal.  What was not so happy was the absolute absence of wildlife.  Even last summer, it seemed that we would see occasional pods of bottlenose dolphin, except for the near vicinity of the Macondo well.  But today, from Venice southward to the Matterhorn and then northeast to Dauphin Island -- nothing.  No dolphin, cobia, turtles, rays, sharks, pogey... nothing.   And only a small number of birds.

We flew the Barrier islands again on the way back to New Orleans.  This time, unlike our flight there Friday Mar 18, we saw just a few dolphins in the shallow waters near the islands, but no rays, sharks, or any other marine life.  

We reported this "null result" regarding any  massive oil slick between Dauphin Island and the Matterhorn oil rig to the local news stations.  This evening, radio station WWL called to advise us that they had just been told by a Jefferson Parish elected official that the oil we've been seeing since Friday March 18 came from a "plug and abandonment project that occurred south of Grand Isle yesterday."  (Surely they meant Friday, not yesterday, which was Saturday March 19?)  
If we understand their report correctly, they are saying that all of the oil we have seen and documented came from said source in just four to six hours, but the source has now been secured.  They also say that they have taken samples and that 'analytical results' are 'forthcoming.'

Their report can be viewed at:  http://www.wwl.com/Jefferson-official-on-reported-oil-slick/9437034 .


Here is the text of the report:
"On Sunday evening, Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts sent the following information to the WWL Newsroom concerning the reported oil sheen on the Gulf off the Louisiana coast: 

After speaking with the USCG they have confirmed there were no well fires within the past 24 hours south of Grand Isle.  Commander John Burton (USCG) of Morgan City has confirmed a plug and abandonment project that occurred south of Grand Isle yesterday. 

Commander Burton indicated there was a 4-6 hour release of oil to the water and the source has been secured.  The USCG has activated their pollution fund therefore ES&H has been contracted and they are responding with remediation capabilities. 

Analytical results concerning the samples that were taken on yesterday are not available but are forthcoming.  Commander Burton has also dispatched a team to conduct sampling of the oil that was located this morning.  The scientific support coordinator for NOAA is currently preparing spill trajectories in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the release. Additional Updates to Follow."

In view of this 'null result' regarding a large oil spill many miles off shore, we're planning to head back down to Grand Terre Island tomorrow to assess the actual extent and coordinates for the visible perimeter of this spill, and to search again for stressed or dead wildlife.