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2012 February 29, Wednesday
Gulf of Mexico


Our first flight over the Gulf since late December 2011, for over two months! It was great for us to see it again from the air. But all is not so great with it, unfortunately.

Long before we reached the tip of Louisiana, we noticed that the overall amount of marshland seemed significantly less than had been here this time last year. We also saw quite a bit of marshland that was blackened, as if by fire. We had barely begun to discuss what else it could be other than fire, when we spotted not one but two marsh fires ahead of us! No sign of human presence anywhere near either of them. What causes these?  Lightning, perhaps?  It was sad to see, for the strong southwesterly winds were sure to burn all of that land northeastward until it reached water.  Indeed, on our return four hours later, both fires were still raging strong.

Barely 10 miles off the tip of Louisiana, the chronic oil leakage from Taylor Energy's Ocean Saratoga platform, sunk by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, continues in what looks to be full force. We followed an ugly, quarter-mile-wide line of fresh oily sheen that stretches from west to east for more than 10 miles.  The buoy we photographed there in early December remains, but there was not a work vessel nor any other type of vessel anywhere in the vicinity.

We proceeded to the Macondo prospect (vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon disaster of nearly two years ago).  Since we have not flown the Gulf since late December, and we have seen no reports from other pilots flying this far offshore, we had no idea where to look for oil.  So we decided to return to some of the places where we have been seeing appreciable amounts of surface sheen consistently since last summer. That proved a good strategy, as we found oil and surface sheen almost immediately.  And plenty of it.

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