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2011 December 20, Tuesday
Gulf of Mexico

Yesterday morning, Transocean reported a 13,000-gallon (310-barrel) spill from their Deepwater Nautilussemi-submersible, which is currently drilling for Shell Oil in 7,200' of water about 26 miles southeast of the sunken Deepwater Horizon, in the Appomattox area. The spill was reported to be oil mixed with drilling fluid from a leak in a booster line.  A "light surface sheen" was verified by the U.S. Coast Guard during an overflight.  We arrived there a little after 11am and found two vessels: Akira Chouest and Emily Candies. The seas were too rough and visibility too poor to positively identify any surface sheen. But we can say with confidence that the many sightings of oil in the Macondo area on our last flight, December 09, and on this flight, are not associated with this drilling work.

Enroute there, and on our way back from there, we found more than we expected we would see with the poor atmospheric visibility and rough seas.  Yesterday and today were the first days of decent flying weather for visual surveys in ten days, but visibility was still borderline due to low clouds and mist.  Seas were 4 to 6 ft too, not great for spotting oil or marine life. But in winter here in the Gulf it's futile to wait for perfect blue-sky days, so we were up and early today.

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