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2013 January 04, Friday
Taylor Energy and MC252 (site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010)

Today we made good use of the first window of good flying weather for southern Louisiana and the Gulf in weeks, and we flew out to check on the chronic oil slicks we have documented in the past -- the chronic leak at the Taylor Energy site just off the southern tip of Louisiana, and the substantial surface sheen that has appeared intermittently in the past couple of years over BP's abandoned wellhead in Mississippi Canyon lease block 252 (MC252) -- the scene of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and environmental disaster of April, 2010.

The past few weeks have seen nonstop wild weather in these parts, ranging from strong gusty cold northerly winds to storms coming up from the southwest, all causing very rough seas, almost daily rainstorms or showers, beautiful displays of clouds from scattered to dark and foreboding, and generally poor flying conditions for aerial viewing of oil slicks on the Gulf of Mexico.  We expected that the strong winds and currents and heavy rains would have prevented surface slicks from holding together, and that therefore the slicks we have reported on so frequently in these two areas would probably be dispersed. (Bad pun, that word, sorry!) However, despite only fair air visibility today and rough seas (4-6 ft waves), these two slicks were impossible to miss.

Taylor Energy: The Taylor Energy slick first appears as a long white line on the horizon, then as a substantial geometric shape on the ocean surface as you approach it, generally oriented southwest to northeast.  Flying directly over it at about 1000' above, even with the rough seas, our small video camera looking out our belly viewer saw lots of rainbow sheen and thick lines of metallic gray oil, inspersed with some deep reddish-brown material -- most likely weathered oil.  Photos and videos of this area are below.  Today, this slick was about 400m wide (NW-SE) and 2 nm long (SW-NE, approximately 035°).  We filed an NRC report after our flight. (Many thanks to Gulf Coast resident Susan Forsyth for her help in getting that submitted promptly!) Many more photos and three videos of the Taylor Energy slick are included below, thanks to the substantial help of Gulf Coast residents and enthusiastic photographers and passengers Terese Collins and Brayton Matthews.  Here are a few sample photos:

{gallery}20130104-Taylor-Teasers{/gallery}

MC252 and the Macondo Prospect: The MC252 slick also shows up clearly from a distance. Since the ENSCO 8502 drilling rig has been parked right there for over a month, it's almost impossible to miss the slick these days! There is an obvious discharge from that rig, but the large, well-defined slick to its east is clearly not coming from the ENSCO, but from its own source right there at or very near the abandoned wellhead.  The slick's dimensions are approximately 1.5 nm SW-NE, and 1 nm NW-SE. Within the light sheen, there are many “streamer” lines of shiny metallic-gray clearly visible on the surface.  Many photos and a video are included below.  Here are a few sample photos.

{gallery}20130104-MC252-Teasers{/gallery}

A few other sights of interest are included below as well -- many hundreds of birds gathered together and flying in huge V-formation southward, and some beautiful and intriguing sights in the wetlands and coastal areas.  Photos are included below (or will be by tomorrow!), and locations are given in our flight log.

See all the photos and videos, and read the full article here!