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2011 April 21 Thursday (posted 2011 May 05)

Four weeks since we first returned to the Gulf in March 2011, where on our first day of flying we had found vast expanses of subsurface plumes and streamers and some surface sheen extending along the west shores of the Chandeleurs Islands, dramatically surrounding a very active rookery on Breton Island, and extending from the shores of Grand Isle, LA southward at least 10 miles and southwestward almost 30 miles.  (See articles from March 22 and 23.)  We wondered what we would see today.

The weather during the preceding week had been windy, and the sea was choppy and murky. We knew we wouldn't see many animals, but choppy water doesn't hide the kinds of huge quantitites of crude and crude-dispersant that we documented all last summer and saw again in March of this year.  We were on a tight time constraint for this flight, just 90 minutes.  So I  headed directly to the gps points I had marked previously in late March as looking the worst.  

The shores of the Chandeleurs looked very dirty, with trucks and evidence of dredging work all along that once-pristine and rarely-visited chain of islands and wildlife sanctuary.  But when we reached the southern Chandeleurs and Breton Island, we were upset to see remains of those expansive subsurface sheets of deep red.  

Not wanting to create a lot of frustration and anger without having good knowledge of what the stuff we found in March was, we didn't publish this report right away.  But now, May 5, we are publishing our photos,  for now we have results of laboratory analyses of the waters near Breton Island sampled in late March.  Samples from those subsurface sheets of deep red oily stuff all around Breton Island and along the Chandeleurs were positively identified as BP MC252 (Deepwater Horizon) oil, still showing highly toxic concentrations of polyaromatic nuclear hydrocarbons (PAHs). 

The adult seabirds setting up their nests on this popular rookery have been eating highly contaminated fish here for quite a while, and now they are setting up their nests to raise their young in this toxic environment.    

This day was not great for photography.  Clouds were thick and low and there was much moisture in the air.  At times like this, a polarizing lens would help in showing others what we were able to see; but OWOC in general does not use such enhancers, and anyway our passengers today didn't have any with them either.  But look closely at these photos, and you'll see the lines -- the lines of deep red, the lines of foam, tragically not the natural lines of rip tides and convergence zones and sandbars.  We also spotted a dead dolphin on the east shore of Breton Island.  The photo did not come out well, but flying low and slow over it left us certain of what we saw.  Who knows how many others there are that have not yet washed up or been seen, and whether we will ultimately be able to understand and prove what caused the many 'unusual mortality events' of dolphins and seaturtles in these waters since last spring.

In these photos you'll also a see a shrimp boat with his nets down, not two miles northeast of the island!  We wondered if he knew what lurked in the waters so close to him.

NOTE:  Unless noted, no photos or video provided by On Wings Of Care are "photoshopped" or otherwise altered in any way that could degrade accurate interpretation of what we observed.