2011 Dec 09 Friday
Gulf of Mexico

Lured by a narrow window of clear skies and calm seas, we had the plane warmed up and ready to fly by sunrise.  We were itching to see the offshore area again, having not seen it for almost a month.  On our last flight (Nov 12), we saw more than a dozen large ships working in a 30-sq-mile area around the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster (the Macondo prospect), in addition to the usual smaller supply vessels.  They provided little information about what they were doing except to say that they were "studying natural seeps in the area."  Aerial dispersant planes have continued to conduct almost weekly flights across Breton Sound, over Grand Isle, and out to the Macondo, with the legal blessing of our government and paychecks from the oil industry to spray Corexit to disperse and sink surface oil. Aware of these flights (even as recently as last week), we were prepared to find little or no surface oil; but we were eager to learn if a high level of work activity was continuing. So we were surprised to find not a work vessel in sight, and scattered patches and lines of surface oil almost everywhere we went!  

Here is a map of our flight track; the red circles are surface oil sightings (those marked "1209" were from today; a few sizable slicks from other recent flights are also shown on this map).  As always, you may download our entire GPS track from today's flight, with descriptions of all sightings and waypoint coordinates, by going to the main menu tab called "Flight Tracks."

20111209-1-OWOC-GulfFlt copy


We followed the Mississippi River southward in order to check on two oil reports to the National Response Commission (NRC)  from yesterday near the eastern shoreline above Plaquemines Parish.  The first sight ("JH1" on the map) had many fishing boats and no visible oil; the second ("JH2"( had a small localized surface sheen, maybe 30 ft by 1200 ft in size. Good news, we thought.
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.  

20111209-3b-OWOC-GulfOil copy











From there we headed directly to the Taylor Energy site we've documented before, less than 12 miles southeast of the Delta.  Just south of the tip we saw tar balls floating, and on arriving at the Taylor Energy site, my insides groaned to see a scene reminiscent of the summer of 2010.  What a mess!  Surface dull gray sheen stretched for about three miles west-to-east in a band about a quarter-mile wide.  There was one ship working there (the Adriatic), with a large white cylindrical float to its stern. Here are some photos and video, with a higher-resolution map.

20111209-4b-OWOC-GulfOil copy

20111209-5c-OWOC-GulfOil copy


















Thinking optimistically that this might be the last oil we would see until our way back home, we headed for the Macondo prospect, visions of sperm whales, huge dolphin pods, and calm blue seas dancing in our heads. Instead, though, we spotted surface oil sheen more than 20 miles northwest of the former Deepwater Horizon site, and again every few miles from there southward toward the DWH site.  Nothing as dramatic as we had just seen at the Taylor site, but distinct lines and patches of grey-to-silver sheen, some of them stretching for miles. 










Nearing the DWH site, we saw more isolated small patches and lines; and just south of the DWH site, still north of where the two relief wells were drilled last year, we saw four bottlenose dolphins within a large surface slick and lines of oil with some globules in it. They looked so large that at first I thought they were sperm whales, but they were almost motionless, floating near the surface.  We finally noticed a fin break the surface, and hoped this was normal behavior and not a result of illness from being in that poison.










From the DWH site, we proceeded to another slick a few miles south, and then southeast several miles, seeing small patches or lines of sheen every couple of miles. We then proceeded northeastward, to check out places where we've previously documented significant amounts of surface oil (Aug 30, Sep 11, and Sep 21). We went northeast to about 25 miles from the DWH rig, and then turned southward again to follow the crescent-shaped pattern of surface oil and many work vessels that we've seen over the last few months. The red marks on this higher-resolution map show the larger of the oil patches or lines we saw, and our GPS flight tracks will show you which ones we stopped to check out more carefully. We flew from one surface slick to another as we made our way southward.  

20111209-6d-OWOC-GulfOil copy









By the time we made it almost to the Na Kika platform, about 16 miles southeast of the DWH site, we finally came across a work vessel, the Dino Chouest.  And soon after that, a few miles farther south, we found the Ocean Intervention II, and then the familiar ROV-vessel Skandi Neptune.  (How many of us were mesmerized during April-June 2010 watching ROV video footage taken by the Skandi!)  We went as far south as the Chevron platform Blind Faith. What a reassuring name for a deepwater offshore oil platform! With that, we decided to head home.  As we neared the DWH site again, we came across a really ugly bunch of oil in a very long west-to-east band.  



















As we came northward toward Breton Sound, from blue to green water and then to muddy water, our passengers marvelled at the "Platform City."  The density of oil platforms within 15 miles of the shores of Louisiana really is boggling.  We all agreed that we would not want to be navigating a boat back to Venice after dark!  









Then came what we didn't really expect -- more oil. And more, and more, all within sight of Breton and the Chandeleur Islands and the mainland.  What is going on here?


SUPPORT FOR THIS FLIGHT came primarily from friends of On Wings Of Care in California. Without help like theirs, we could not make these flights. Twenty-two (22) NRC reports resulted from this flyover. As a result, the US Coast Guard has promised to investigate these pollution sites with follow-up flights and by ship. Scientists from Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi are now also planning a trip to these area with a research vessel. Thanks to all of you who support citizens and groups like us who are willing to make the effort to get the facts -- enough of them at least to bring attention to the public and to those who can go further to stop the pollution and protect our oceans and wildlife.


Here are the notes we took on the flight and the coordinates of the waypoints we marked. (More points are available in the GPS Flight Track files.)

OWOC GULF Flight Log 20111209
(with Brenda Longfellow and Glen Richards from Toronto, Canada)

KNEW - (MRGO-Taylor-Macondo-Breton)-KNEW
~4.5 hrs, ETD KNEW 0830 CST = 1330Z, ADIZ at 0915,
Return KNEW  1300 CST-1800Z.

Numbers 0100-0127 below refer to our GPS waypoint numbers
In the order observed, following are the waypoints we noted:

JH1 - 29°31'N, 089°32.5'W  (JHenderson #1 NRC report of oil 20111208):
No oil sighted, several small fishing vessels

NRC21= Incident Report # 997818. JH2 - 29°26.122'N, 089°30.964'S   (JHenderson #2 NRC report of oil 20111208):
One small localized sheen sighted (see photos).

0100 - 29°04.006'N, 089°06.763'W:  Tarballs floating.

NRC22= Incident Report # 997819. TAY2 - 28° 556.358'N,   88° 57.924'W  (Taylor Energy site reported previously):
What a mess!  ~3 nm long W-E by ~1000-1500 ft wide.  One ship working there, towing a large white cylindrical float.  (Adriatic, blue and white.)

{ADIZ Xing:  ~28°55'N, 088°50' W (00:30 min from KNEW), ~50 nm SSE of KNEW.} 

NRC1 = Incident Report # 997800. 0101 - N28 56.681 W88 29.447:  OIL
[Near:  Sep 21 oil, gps #0025 at   28° 54.890'N   88° 28.743'W]

NRC2 = Incident Report # 997801. 0102 - N28 51.095 W88 29.740:  OIL
[Near: Aug 30 oil, gps #9168 at 28° 44.825'N    88° 22.224'W]

Noted for interest, no surface oil observed at these exact points:
BP WellA -  28° 44.288'N, 88° 21.956'W (per MMS permit)
BP WellB -  28° 44.267'N, 88° 22.010'W (per MMS permit)

NRC3 = Incident Report # 997794. 0103 - N28 44.072 W88 22.110:  OIL & 4 large bottlenose dolphin, very sluggish

NRC4 = Incident Report # 997809. 0104 - N28 43.221 W88 19.702:  OIL

NRC5 = Incident Report # 997796. 0105 - N28 44.108 W88 20.667:  OIL

NRC6 = Incident Report # 997797. 0106 - N28 50.579 W88 18.788:  OIL

NRC7 = Incident Report # 997798. 0107 - N28 51.402 W88 12.153:  OIL, Long lines of it.  5+ nm long, narrow ~150 ft.

Noted for interest only:
DWH Wreck (per NOAA): 28° 44.496'N, 88° 22.060'W
RW2 (BP relief well): 28° 43.889'N   88° 22.299'W
RW3 (BP relief well):  28° 43.859'N   88° 21.760'W

NRC8 = Incident Report # 997802. 0108 - N28 52.273 W88 10.177: OIL

NRC9 = Incident Report # 997803. 0109 - N28 51.332 W88 10.446:  OIL

NRC10 = Incident Report # 997804. 0110 - N28 41.820 W88 10.805: Lines and lines of oil, for miles and miles, lines and sheets of surface sheen.

NRC11 Incident Report # 997805. 0111 - N28 38.926 W88 11.598:  OIL

NRC12 = Incident Report # 997806. 0112 - N28 37.006 W88 11.500: OIL

0113 - N28 33.206 W88 14.074: Vessel Dino Chouest, with cable down.

0114 - N28 26.482 W88 16.797: (At Na Kika platform) SkandiNeptune + Supply Vessel

0115 - N28 20.891 W88 16.376: Chevron Rig "Blind Faith", MC650.  Flaring.

0116 - N28 30.702 W88 17.364: Rig: BP MC474A, flaring; Vessel: Ocean Intervention II.

NRC13 = Incident Report # 997807. 0117 - N28 35.485 W88 17.694:  OIL

NRC14. = Incident Report # 997808 . 0118 - N28 35.713 W88 16.772: Bad oil, really looks bad.  Eastward through #0120.

NRC15. = Incident Report # 997810. 0119 - N28 35.562 W88 15.566: Bad oil, east through #0120.

NRC16 = Incident Report # 997811. 0120 - N28 37.140 W88 12.352:  OIL

0121 - N28 48.739 W88 13.633: Line of old sargassum, southwest to northeast.

0122 - N28 57.101 W88 30.103: Sargassum and some sheen patches, ~0.3nm by

0123 - N29 07.828 W88 46.860: Rig - Chevron A55-215 (?)

NRC17 = Incident Report # 997812. 0124 - N29 14.649 W88 55.609:  OIL

NRC18 = Incident Report # 997813. 0125 - N29 33.208 W89 11.285: Line of oil ~ 1 mi long

NRC19= Incident Report # 997814. 0126 - N29 33.065 W89 09.438:  OIL

NRC20= Incident Report # 997815. 0127 - N29 33.243 W89 08.032: Oil, line extends~ 0.25 nm, starting from rig.

Copyright © 2011 (On Wings Of Care, Inc.,Bonny L. Schumaker, Ph.D.)  All Rights Reserved