2012 April 06, Friday
New Orleans, Louisiana
It has been five weeks since we last flew over the Macondo area, scene of the worst oil pollution disaster in America just two years ago. There has been a lot of violent weather here in the meantime, especially recently. From a scientific perspective, it might have been better for us to have waited a few days before assessing things from the air, since it takes time and calm weather for oil seeping from the ocean floor 5000 feet below the surface to appear in a stable form that is easily seen from an airplane flying by at 100 miles per hour. But we decided to jump at our first available day of fairly calm seas, great visibility, and time that we all could take off from work.
With cautious optimism based on this possibly premature aerial assessment, we were pleased to see very few of the surface oil slicks we've seen on every previous flight for the past nearly two years! Yes, there are still isolated lines and bands of sheen out in the Macondo area. Yes, there are still some activities at platforms in that area that we wonder about, such as significant discharging into the water of unknown substances. Yes, the chronic oil polluting Taylor Energy site just off the southern tip of Louisiana is still causing a seriously ugly and large slick. And yes, there are many more slicks off the southeast shores of Louisiana, not far from the Taylor Energy site and in almost every direction you look. Some are associated with platforms and some not, some short narrow lines and some more extensive in nature. No one seeing this part of the Gulf from the air could ever deny that the oil and gas industries have literally littered this marine ecosystem with navigational hazards, and pollutants, and eyesores. But -- starting about 15-20 miles off shore, we found blue water, some of it no longer visibly tainted with oil. And that was a relief.
And while we'd like to stick with the optimistic tone, we must add one very puzzling and concerning fact.
On this entire flight of nearly four hours, the only wildlife we saw were a few pelicans. Not a dolphin, not a ray, not a shark, not a whale, not even a baitball. Nada. Nothing. And we were three pairs of experienced eyes locked on the water the entire time, looking for any sign of a fin, a shadow, a movement. Seas were 2-3 ft, lighting was excellent and skies were clear. We saw nothing. We need to do some investigating about this. We're hoping to learn of some reassuring explanation such as a change in the loop current that brought warm waters and prey and plankton to other areas, to which the marine life has gone.
Read the full article and see all the photos and videos here!