2011 November 12, Saturday
Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana shorelines and the Macondo Prospect revisited
Our first flight over the Gulf since late September! Air and water temperatures were downright chilly, winds were blowing 20+ kts, the sky was covered with clouds, and seas were a little rough. Not the perfect day for flying or finding stuff, and definitely no longer the balmy days of summer over the Gulf. But it was the perfect day for our passengers and us to go, and we were eager to embrace this wonderland from the air again. We began by surveying some of the Louisiana shoreline where one of our passengers will be replanting and protecting the fragile disappearing wetlands with berms. We looked along the shores of Lake Borgne, then down to Plaquemines Parish and flew along the shores of eastern Barataria Bay and on down to South Pass. Noticed only a few flocks of egrets and some ducks, but otherwise wildlife seemed scarce compared to this past summer and early fall. That part of the mission accomplished, we headed out toward the Macondo Prospect to see what we might see.
As usual, you may download our complete GPS tracks under the main menu item called "Flight Tracks;" just look for the file labeled with today's date, and you'll be able to see our position and time every 10 seconds of the entire flight. A transcript of our Flight Log is also appended at the bottom of this article. We did not turn on our SPOT GPS transmitter this flight (see the link on the left-hand side of our web page that says "Track our Flights"), so you would not have been able to track us in real-time today. Suffice it to say that we wanted to keep our flights a bit more 'stealth' of late.
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.
We saw lots of "work" vessels out in the Macondo today! And new orange buoys we hadn't seen before. Our southeast-bound route took us past the platform "VK989" at about N28°58' W088°37', and the first two orange buoys we saw were a little over 50 miles off shore to the east-southeast. Thence came a progression of oil-related (BP-contracted, we think) work vessels, some ROV-capable and more. These included the Meg L. Skandi, C. Chariot, Monica Ann, Normand Pacific, Sarah Bordelon, Deep Blue, HOS Iron Horse, Brooks McCall, and Holiday. Only when we reached the Holiday was the visibility good enough for us to identify unequivocally a line of oil "globules," and they were very near the Holiday. That vessel was almost stationary but there was quite a bit of exhaust coming out of a stack on it, as if it were running a pump or something. We saw several other such lines of sheen that did not resemble the usual wind-surface patches or lines, but we did not have time to fly over to them to inspect them closely.
See photos and videos below. The still photos are in the order in which the events appeared to us. The times are in most of the photo filenames, but they can also be inferred from the gps track files together with our Flight Log appended below.To conclude, we can't really conclude much! There seems to be a great deal of work going on out there -- well, a large number of work vessels out there, but we couldn't see any work being done from above the water's surface! Several vessels had cables going down, so they may have been working with ROVs or other equipment sub-surface. We did see the above-mentioned line of oil (see videos 1 and 2 below). Note that all of these vessels are in the same areas that we have documented signifcant quantities of surface oil since August and in particular on our flights dated Aug 30, Sep 10, Sep 11, and Sep 27. We saw no whales or whale sharks or dolphins or other large marine life for this entire flight. There was one other fixed-wing (multi-engine high-wing propeller) airplane that passed us at our altitude (about 800') on our return, just north of the Holiday and the line of oil; we could not read its registration numbers.
Two more videos below show some of the lines of old sargassum we saw on our return from the Macondo to New Orleans. We had to get pretty low to be sure it was sargassum weed, as from 800' it sure looked like those familiar patches of weathered crude we saw all summer long in 2010!
2011 Nov 12 OWOC Gulf Flight Log
Started New Orleans' Lakefront Airport (KNEW), flew the shorelines of Lake Borgne and down to Plaquemines Parish, over to eastern Barataria Bay and down to South Pass, then out to the Macondo Prospect.
(no mark) N28°58', W088°37' Platform VK989
0071 N28°48.8', W088°15.2' Orange buoy
0072 N28°50.1', W088°14.1' Orange buoy
(no mark) N28°52', W088°18' Work vessel Meg L. Skandi
0073 N28°52.9', W088°03.6' Vessel C Chariot
0074 N28°51.8', W088°03.3' Platform BP-MC127 plus two boats (Monica Ann and ??)
0075 N28°38.4', W088°10' Sarah Bordelon
0076 N28°33', W088°13.9' Normand Pacific
(no mark) N28°, W088°17.6; Na Kika platform (BP-MC474A)
" " Deep Blue (pipeline-installer-class vessel)
" " HOS Iron Horse (cables down on both sides)
0077 N28°385.6', W088°26.4' Brooks McCall (work boat) and orange buoy
0078 N28°41.1', W088°29' Holiday (work boat), stationary but lots of smoke coming out, as if using a pump or?
0078 N28°41.1', W088°29' Line of oil globules!
0079 N28°41.1', W088°28.6' Line of dark orange -- old sargassum?
0080 N28°45.6', W088°31.8' Continuing line of -- old sargassum?
0081 N28°46', W088°31.8' Orange buoy