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2012 October 5, Friday
Gulf of Mexico

MORE PHOTOS from Oct 05 ADDED TODAY! (20121016) -- See Below
(and download our GPF flight tracks here!) 

Today we flew a long and carefully planned route over Gulf of Mexico waters south of Louisiana, in order to look for surface oil slicks.  We had planned the flight for Sep 17, but weather and travel forced us to delay til today.  The route would cover 22 known sites, all based on our previous sightings and known natural seeps, including three recently reported sights, and of course that area of chronic interest -- MC252 and surroundings, home to BP's infamous well and the Macondo reservoir. We found what we were looking for, and much that we had hoped not to find.  

In short -- the natural seeps remain, some of them narrow lines of "pancakes" of oil and some of them wide areas of shimmering surface slicks. Pollution cleanup debacles like the chronic Taylor Energy site less than 15 miles off the coast of Louisiana remain, egregious sites covering miles and miles, and flowing substantially still, as evidenced by the heavy patches of rainbow sheen.  What we did not expect was to see that kind of rainbow sheen and substantial amounts of fresh-looking oil around the Macondo reservoir. But find it we did.  

The stuff within a few miles of MC252 looked like this (GPS waypoints 0411, and a slick between waypoints 0415 and 0416 from our flight log below):














(That's our nose wheel in these still photos taken from the video camera that looks slightly forward from a belly viewer in our plane, which we view and control via a remote monitor.)  A video of what we saw in this area is included below.

Here is a large-scale map of our planned route (pink) and our actual flight path (blue), together with a close-up of the eastern part of our route (near the Macondo).  We went first to the site of the chronic Taylor Energy oil leak south of Breton Sound, then to the vicinity of MC252 and the DWH disaster of 2010, then southwestward nearly 175 nautical miles to check out locations of known natural seeps and of recently documented surface oil slicks, then headed back to Lakefront Airport via Grand Isle, LA.

As you know from our previous articles, our actual flights go where "the stuff" is, so the actual paths are usually circles and spirals and meandering paths that track the oil or the animals or whatever it is that we're tracking.  You can read from these actual paths almost as clearly as you can from our GPS waypoints, just where "the stuff" was.  The actual GPS coordinates are given in our Flight Log appended below.








Here is a short video of the oil seen near the Macondo.  This rainbow sheen was seen within a few miles of the site of the 2010 BP disaster; the slick was at least one nautical mile (2 km) long and on average about 400-500 meters wide. This video was taken from a small video camera looking through the belly of our plane, at between 800' and 1000' above the water.  The small narrow line of oil you see at the end of the video is the way sites of known natural seeps tend to look (except for some which cover much wider areas of surface).  The rainbow nature of this slick suggests a much more substantial flow of oil than is associated with most of these natural seeps.  (See, e.g., the photo of the natural seep in Green Canyon, about 175 miles southwest of here.)  Many more photos can be found in the galleries below.



Our flight log gives more detailed info on the appearance and positions of the oil we saw; it is appended below the photo galleries.  Our GPS tracks can be downloaded here; those will tell you exactly where we were at any given time.

Here are more photos of what we saw near our gps waypoint #411, at approximately 1211 CDT:

Now, about 15 nm (30 km) east of here, around our gps waypoint #412, at 1223 CDT, we saw another slick, with less rainbow sheen and more of the milky luminescence.  Here is a video of that, followed by some photos of it:

Eight miles southwest of here, near "MC294" and the site of a known natural seep, this is what we saw:

Finally, a good while later and about 160 nm still farther southwest, in Green Canyon, we checked out other known abundant natural seeps, most famously the one located in "GC600."  

You will note from the flight log that we saw a lot of oil -- about 24 distinct sightings.  We don't have photos of it all, but we do have many more photos than are shown here, and over the next week or so, we'll post the remaining photos of the additional slicks.

As always, any information that readers can provide for us about what we saw or on what we ought to check out on future flights is greatly appreciated.  Just This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with it.

MORE PHOTOS from Oct 05 ADDED TODAY (20121016):
Here are more photos from Oct 05. The first is a distant view of the chronic Taylor Energy pollution site, only about 12 miles offshore from Louisiana. (More photos of the Taylor slick can be seen in the article from our Oct 06 flight for whale sharks, and in numerous other of our articles -- just search the keyword on this website).  The next eight photos are all of the surface oil in the Macondo area. (The photo filenames will tell you the date, time, and area of each photo.)  The next three after that, taken around 1227 CDT, are about 15 nm east of the  Macondo.  Then, at 1245CDT, we have two more photos of the Macondo area, as we circled back to the west.  And one photos taken 3 miles northwest of the Macondo.  You can start to see what natural seeps look like, compared to what we were seeing in the Macondo area and eastward!  

To see more natural seeps, look at the next six photos, those whose filenames say MC294, MC709, GC600, or GC767.  Some of these are expansive surface slicks, but we typically do not see the rainbow sheen that we are seeing in the Macondo area, indicating less of a flow.  Finally, in the last photo you'll see a platform slick about 20 miles south of Timbalier Bay -- an all too common site around platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. 



********   On Wings Of Care Flight Log for 20121005 Friday   ******* 
Survey of Gulf of Mexico known natural seep sites plus DWH, Taylor Energy, and recent reported slicks

All waypoint numbers below refer to the GPS tracks shown in today's article at
Times are given in CDT.  
Lat/lons are given in degrees and decimal minutes.
Aircraft & Personnel: Dr. Bonny Schumaker with Dr. Ian MacDonald and Samira of Florida State University, Tallahassee.
Seas and weather:  Seas 1-3 ft, scattered high clouds, 5-15 kt winds from the northeast-north.
Visibility:  Air fair, sea good, scattered thunderstorms and low clouds throughout.
Flight time:  6.1 hours
Flight route: KNEW - Taylor Energy & vicinity- DWH & Seep Sites in vicinity (~10-nm radius circumference) - MC709 - GC600 - GC767 - Grand Isle - KNEW

20121005 - Waypoints of Interest (#s 0410--0424 are new; smaller numbers are sites noted in previous flights and revisted today; * denotes photos or videos)

0245. N29 32.846 W89 07.534
Slick west of platform, about 100 ft wide (N-S) x 800 ft long

TAY3. 1135 CDT.  N28 56.170 W88 58.134
(Taylor Energy chronic slick). 

0410.  1137 CDT.  N28 55.971 W88 58.020
Southwest end of Taylor Energy slick, tracked it NE (060°), approx 1 nm SW-NE, ~400m SE-NW

0286. N28 51.896 W89 03.163 
(West end of Taylor slick at prior sightings.)

(Planned but did not overfly.)VK989.  N28 58.382, W88 37.56 (where whale-shark LDWF people will be on 10/05)

0405.  1200 CDT. N28 50.771 W88 29.761
Oil still here!  (From 20120914, 1633 CDT:  OIL.  ~50m by ~500m, running SW-NE.)

MC166. 1209 CDT.  N28 49.340 W88 17.660
OIL. (Surface line of sheen)

*0411.  1211 CDT.  N28 46.086 W88 20.654
(Macondo area, ~2 nm northeast of the DWH site)  Rainbow sheen here, much heavier than MC166.
(Photos 020-200, 240-260, 220-240).

VK1001. 1222 CDT.  N28 46.035 W88 03.000
OIL -- N-S and E-W -- see #0412.

0412.  1223 CDT.  N28 42.991 W88 05.209
~2 NM N-S.  (Photos 150, 160-163)

0413.  1234 CDT.  N28 39.570 W88 11.196
Large shallow sheen, E-W.

MC123. 1236 CDT.  N28 38.494 W88 15.000
Diffuse, sub-surface layers.

0414.  1243 CDT.  N28 42.300 W88 22.021
Blue/white vessel, large slick W-E. (West end if #0415, 070° to E end at #0416; photos 195-213).  Another line of oil south of it.  Large thundercloud to the north-northeast of this area, which precluded our getting closer to sites of oil in this area.

OC26. 1243 CDT. N28 42.450 W88 21.700

0415.  1243 CDT.  N28 43.900 W88 22.284
OIL.  West end of slick.

0416.  1245 CDT.  N28 45.268 W88 19.999

OIL.  East end of slick (stopped by weather here)

0395. N28 43.209 W88 20.487
(From 20120914: Platform flaring, BP - MC474A.  Sheen nearby.)

120917- NOA. N28 44.500 W88 22.500
(From 20120914.  Research vessel here near MC252.)

0394. N28 44.297 W88 22.828
(From 20120914, 1514 CDT: Surface oil sheen, ~ 100m wide, ~400m long, SE to NW.
Also another smaller surface slick about a mile farther to the SE, ~50m wide, ~100 m long.)

0417.  1247 CDT.  N28 47.447 W88 17.620
Supply vessel, black/white.

0244. 1255 CDT.  N28 41.143 W88 28.587   &
MC294. N28 41.620 W88 29.090
OIL.  Ground track 170° (magnetic), about 0.5 nm long.

(Note: Did not overfly previously observed slick from 20120914 south of here, extending about 50 m from the west side of the “Thunderhorse - BP” platform south of here at former GPS #0400. N28 12.166 W88 29.970 MC331. N28 38.800 W88 49.770.)

MC331.  1307 CDT.  N28 38.800 W88 49.770
OIL.  Small group of “pancake” oil patches.  No photos, dodging thunderclouds here!

LENA.  1315 Z.   N28 39.775 W89 09.465 (platform)

MC311. N28 38.560 W89 47.650
No oil seen in this vicinity.  (This is near the platform with the tall tower on it, and another platform to its north.)

MC709. 1348 CDT.  N28 14.440 W89 42.610
OIL.  ~ 1.5 nm, E-W.  Four sets of lines, all E-W.  Just to the north there was a HELIX vessel, with another vessel.  Laying cable, or working with a submersible?

0418.  1400 CDT.  N27 56.717 W90 10.303
MODU “Discoverer Americas” and four supply vessels.

0232. 1415 CDT. N27 43.756 W90 32.907
OIL.  Ground track ~240° (magnetic), plus a larger slick further east that extended ~200°.  Platform to the northwest with three vessels.

0233. 1419 CDT.  N27 33.932 W90 34.923
OIL.  Two parallel lines, each about 0.75 nm long by ~50 m wide, ground track 210°.

GC600. 1430 CDT.  N27 21.910 W90 33.850
OIL.  Large slick, ~ 3 nm long.

0419.  1433 CDT.  N27 15.895 W90 38.562
OIL.  Extending to south of this point, a crescent-shaped slick.

0420.  1441 CDT.  N27 11.870 W90 48.086
OIL.  At least four separate lines.  Drill ship to the north.  Many more isolated lines between here and GC767.

GC767. 1448 CDT.  N27 12.270 W91 00.500
OIL - lots.  This point is the North end of a 5-7 nm long slick!

0421. 1453 CDT.  N27 18.180 W91 01.493
OIL.  This is the south end of another slick running N-S, about 1 nm long, x 50 nm wide (E-W).

0422. 1507 CDT.  N27 44.072 W91 05.902
Slick, W-E, ~ 1 nm long x 500 m wide.  HELIX Explorer there, with ROV.

(Planned but did not have time to overfly.) ST3.  N29 00.000 W91 52.000
(20121002-NRC#1026165 -Passing thru platform 21830, massive sheen, Sky truth estimates ?2,736 gal, South Marsh Island 288.)

0423.  1547 CDT.  N28 50.745 W90 28.844
Stuff that looks like sediment in this area coming from vicinity of a jackup rig.  Drilling mud?

0424.  1551 CDT.  N28 57.015 W90 24.972
Slick from platform.

0231. 1553 CDT.  N28 56.558 W90 23.271 
Significant slick, ~ 300 m x 50 m, platform at east end of it.
(Coincides with recent NRC Report 20121002, “ST2”)

ST1. N29 00.000 W89 51.000
Saw nothing here, but we didn’t take time to check carefully. (20121002-NRC#1026219. Said 1 mi by 1 mi, >684 gal. sheen estimated by Sky Truth.)