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.
Read the full article and see many more photos and videos here!