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2012 April 12-24
Gulf of Mexico

Chronicles of the Endeavor:  A Look from Below
Reports from scientists assessing the Gulf from above and below

-- UPDATED April 26 with new information about the instrument and sensor packages!  --

In April 2012, a large collaboration of scientists including many from Gulf Coast states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida began a long-planned voyage to carry out in situ studies of the state of the ocean floor in several strategic areas of the Gulf of Mexico.  All of these are places of known natural gas and oil seeps within 200 miles of the Macondo area -- site of the massive Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (rig) fire and subsequent oil pollution disaster of April 2010.  Maps of these places together with recent significant sightings of surface oil are shown below.

A large (approximately 60 m) vessel called R/V Endeavor operated by the University of Rhode Island set sea from Gulfport, Mississippi April 12 to study these seeps and the "state of the seabed." Another larger vessel, the NOAA Okeanos Explorer, has also been in the Gulf during April; they have been studying seeps in the Biloxi Dome area, 8-10 miles west of the Macondo well.  (Photos of both vessels with discussion can be found in the article about our Gulf flyover April 18.)  This article will report on the day-to-day adventures of the ship Endeavor, which left Gulfport April 12 and returned April 24. Scientists supporting the Endeavor include Gulf coast "local heroes" Drs. Samantha (Mandy) Joye, Ian MacDonald, and Vernon Asper, among others. Vernon served as chief scientist on Endeavor, and it is largely thanks to his regular reports that this chronicle is now available to the public.  

While the mission was an amazing success in many ways, it also fell short of expectations. This was due largely to adverse weather conditions throughout most of the two-week voyage and partly to a malfunctioning of the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV). However, because there was such a wide variety of instruments and an extremely resourceful and determined crew of scientists onboard, not a minute was wasted.  Schedules were altered and other instruments were given priority.  One of the most fascinating features you will note about this "reality" chronicle is the fast pace at which circumstances changed, and how flexible and clever the scientists had to be on almost an hourly basis.  This is experimental science in the real world!  It is no game for the uninitiated or the easily discouraged, for even the best-laid plans inevitably require back-up plans.

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