2011 September 10, Saturday
Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi Canyon
We took a last-minute evening flight over the Gulf, to test out a repair to our electrical system and to try to show a friend visiting some whale sharks. They also wanted to see if there was still oil out there, so with little sunlight left, we headed directly for the Mississippi Canyon and the scene of last year's disaster, where we've been documenting signs of fresh oil, lots of it, for the past few weeks. We found what we were looking for!
Two whale sharks showed themselves, each feeding in his or her own large bait ball where the tuna were jumping in all directions. We learned last fall to find these gentle giants in the middle of such feeding frenzies far out in the blue water, feeding either horizontally or vertically. So it's seldom that we can pass up one of those circular shadows on the water, knowing what a sight we might find in their middles!We also found, easily and quickly, a long streak of oil and oil 'globules', stretching for several miles from southwest to northeast but less than 100 meter wide. (See videos below.) And who was near it, but the same BP-contracted vessel we've seen several times before sailing or sampling in this area -- the Sarah Bordelon. According to marinetraffic.com, she returned to the scene of last year's BP disaster (the "MC252 block") as soon as Hurricane Lee had passed through, and for the past few days she has resumed her practice of sailing grid patterns, in the same areas where we have been videotaping and photographing oil from the air. As we approached, she executed a U-turn and proceeded in a direction that brought her closer to us. We'd love to know what BP is doing out there, and what they are finding. How can the public learn this information, and is it legal for them to withhold it from the public? Does the US Coast Guard know? Why doesn't the media ask?
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.
The oil slicks we found today were narrower and shorter and the globules smaller than those we've been seeing the past few weeks. But they are in the same general area as the large slick we reported to you last August 30. What happened to that large slick? We have heard from the US Coast Guard in recent public meetings that dispersants are still being used legally and liberally in offshore waters, and that they apply them both from surface vessels and aircraft. We wonder if they are being applied here? Or maybe we just need to broaden our search, maybe they moved with the currents and winds. But something causing fresh oil to form linear slicks sure is persisting right here in this area, that's certain.
We can't answer these questions just by flying and photo-documenting. Scientists can tell us whether the fingerprint of the oil samples collected match those of the Macondo well, and many have attested that the look of the large slick we documented last August 30 was not that of a "natural seep." Other groups (such as Eco-Rigs) cite laboratory results that show correlations between MC252 (Macondo well) oil and negative effects on marine animals and coral in this area for many tens of miles. At this point, BP may be the only ones who can afford to keep vessels and aircraft out there monitoring the situation. That seems to us like the proverbial "fox guarding the chicken coop." But, as another old saying goes, folks, "we get what we settle for." Please, folks, do not settle for not knowing the facts about your Gulf and its life.
Our aim in documenting the existence of continued fresh oil in this area is to raise public awareness and bring scientists to the table to help provide facts about the health of the Gulf and the true risks associated with offshore oil and gas drilling. We would think it unfortunate if our finding oil has the consequence that BP or the US Coast Guard, who apparently still have authority to use dispersants such as Corexit liberally and legally in these offshore waters, were to apply still more dispersants to the area. But if the alternative is to keep these facts from the public, we don't see how that can lead to good. It is imperative that you, the public, act on all the facts that we and other groups work to provide you; and then hold our leaders and policymakers accountable to your consciences, your ethics, your true desires.
Our photos of the whale sharks didn't turn out too well, because of the very low light angle this evening. The photos and video of the oil near the Macondo are a little better, but still suffer from the low light. Here are the photos and videos we have, and we will have more in the coming week. Our flight log is appended below the photos and videos, and our actual flight tracks from this evening can be downloaded under the main menu item "Flight Tracks." In addition to the five videos and other still photos, you'll see below a screen shot from marinetraffic.com showing the recent sailing patterns of the Sarah Bordelon in this area. In that photo, the yellow dot is the approximate location of the Deepwater Horizon; the centerpoints for the top and bottom grid patterns are about N28.54°, W88.07° and N28.80°, W88.17°, respectively.
OWOC GULF FLIGHT LOG - 20110910
Recon flight to MC252 area for whale sharks and oil, also a test flight post airplane repairs
Note: gpx track starts in the middle of this flight, as I erased old tracks enroute when I discovered my buffer was almost full. (so this route looks like it starts out in blue water...!)
9193 (marked on a previous flt) - N29° 36.034', W89° 15.238' - lots of bait balls, water is like GLASS!
9201 - N29 36.460', W89 14.846', 2226Z (1726 CDT). Sargassum just south of platform
9125 (previous flt mark) - N29 32.556', W89 07.828'. A "city" of platforms out there! Breton Island to our southwest - so very much smaller than just a few months ago, even than a couple of weeks ago! Hurricane Lee did this? Brown streaks all around us, visible even in this evening light. Smaller island just east-northeast of Breton has very dirty beaches facing south.
-- Long convergence line goes to this smaller island, south to north, lots of foam in it.
9202 - N29 23.215', W88 55.137', 2237Z. A smoking vessel next to a platform about 1 nm southwest of here (no time to stop to check it out, chasing the sun)
9203 - N29 16.360,', W88 46.036', 2243Z. Flaring platform, lots of smoke. And another one south of here, burning cleaner.
9204 - N29 13.735', W88 42.913', 2245Z. Four ships coming in from south.
9205 - N29 09.674', W88 35.795', 2249Z. Buoy marker, orange, to the east-northeast of here about 0.5 nm (no time to go check it out).
9206 - N29 05.521', W88 29.631', 2252Z. Foam line sw-ne, ~5 nm long, along convergence line
9207 - N28 47.672', W88 12.003', 2308Z.the Sarah Bordelon! She did a 180 and came back toward us! Maybe not for us, maybe more grid patterns?Noticed after the flight from marinetraffic.com that she has been out here almost 48 hours and sailing grid patterns over this area -- spraying dispersant? No sampling boom hanging off her starboard side this time, but then, she was underway -- a mystery what they are doing out here, and what they are doing with samples or info they're gathering. Do they have to report their activities to the public somehow?
9208 - N28 47.393', W88 10.448', 2310Z. Whale Shark #1 - in center of bait ball -- horizontally feeding, good-sized 'gal', named her "Ruby".
9209 - N28 52.196', W88 08.756', 2327Z. oil line, not far from 9195 where we saw oil on Wed 20110907. Still some globules, line stretched about 6 nm. Many other lines looked suspiciously not like wind lines, but too late in the day for us to check them out. Still saw globules, too, but other lines had much smaller foam-like stuff, wondering if this is what dispersant does? Or just lots of rough weather? What is the Sarah Bordelon doing out here?
9210 - N28 51.036', W88 10.348', 2330Z.
9211 - N28 48.884' W88 14.905', 2355Z. Whale Shark #2, vertically feeding in center of bait ball, saw him horizontally just before we left, not a big guy, named him "Bubba".