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2013 March 16 Saturday
Gulf of Mexico - Macondo prospect, Taylor Energy, Breton Sound

(Today's Gulf overflight was made possible by donations from the listeners of the radio station ThePowerHour.com. Thank You Joyce Riley and all of your listeners for putting us back in the air to bring you the facts!)  

We jumped at another day of clear skies and calm seas to make a quick flight to check on some of the fifteen oil pollution sites we documented and reported from last Friday's flight over the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. We were particularly interested to see the status of the extensive sheen we saw in the Macondo area last Friday. To our surprise, that area looked mostly clear today -- clear of surface oil, and void of life. The water was beautifully calm, even 50 miles off the coast. Plenty calm enough to see sharks and fish who do not need to break the surface. And yet we saw no bait balls, no flying fish, no seabirds hunting, no rays, turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales. Nada; nothing alive was seen along our flight route today.

The Taylor Energy site -- that chronic oil pollution debacle about 12 nm off the coast of Louisiana that has been spewing oil into the Gulf since Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004 -- continues to horrify. We filmed plenty of thick rainbow oil, even some brown weathered crude hanging in a portion of it. The thickest part of the slick has moved a few miles northward from where it typically has been in the past, perhaps due to prevailing strong southerly winds of late. But it's never difficult for us to find it; we usually can spot it more than ten miles away, even on cloudy days.

In addition to the Taylor site, we reported another of what we have seen and reported before and presume to be a natural seep, this one about 12 nm west-southwest of MC252. We also saw and reported a substantial slick (over a mile long) along Louisiana's eastern coast, east of Empire, LA at the south end of California Bay.  These comprised our three NRC reports, detailed below in our Flight Log. Here are a few sample photos.  Many more follow, in the galleries below.

Since this was meant to be a short flight, we did not check out other slicks we reported last Friday that were west of this area. Good news was that the gas and oil discharge up in Eloi Bay (about 40 nm southeast of New Orleans) that we documented last Friday looked to be all cleared up today.

The US Coast Guard responded promptly last week and again today to our reports. But we have not received follow-up information, such as what is being done about the ongoing Taylor Energy slicks, or whether the USCG or anyone else did something to clear up the extensive sheens we documented last week out in the Macondo area. Nor has anyone explained to us what the mysterious striations of light and dark colors and the lines of foam are around the Taylor Energy area and toward the coast from there. You'll see videos and photos of these below.  If anyone understands some natural causes for these phenomena, please share them with us or point us to references where we can learn about them. We also wonder about those lines of foam and white stuff (organic matter?) every time we see them. They would be understandable if we saw pogey boats (herring fishermen) in the vicinity, but we see few if any commercial fishermen or sport fishermen in these areas lately.

Here are maps of our flight today:


Here is the first slick we saw, off the eastern coast of Louisiana, just south of California Bay and north of Quarantine Bay, and east-southeast of the city of Empire, LA. (This was NRC Incident Report #1041257.)


Here are some photos and a video of the strange "striped" phenomenon we noticed in the green water within 20 miles of the Louisiana southeastern coast today. Note also the large amount of whitish "foam" and presumably organic material in long lines and streaks. We have never seen so much of it before. This video of some of the strange lines of dark and light color and foamy lines shows some of the last ones we saw and among the least dramatic; we hadn't planned to video it but were so suprised to see so much of it that we took this video through our belly port on our way back to New Orleans. This video was taken in Breton Sound. Much more of this strange-looking stuff existed out to about 12 nm off the coast.  


Here is the Taylor Energy slick, in stills and in two videos -- one from our belly viewer, and one from our handheld videocamera. (This was our NRC Incident Report #1041256.)



We saw a long line of sargassum just north of the Taylor Energi site, more or less at the boundary of green and blue water.  We also saw small patches of sargassum in the blue water, about 10 miles farther south. Here are photos of both:


Here are the narrow lines of surface sheen we saw to the west-southwest of the Deepwater Horizon gravesite, which we take to be a natural seep (our NRC Incident Report #1041259).


Here was the picture today in MC252 and south to the ENSCO DS-3 MODU and the BP "Nakiki" production platform (MC474A). Very different from last Friday! Today there was no apparent sheen. You can see in these photos both of these rigs; today there was no sheen even in the immediate vicinities of these, and Nakiki was not flaring.

 


Last but far from least in our hearts, here are some photos of the beautiful wetlands and many white pelicans and other seabirds. For all of the human-caused pollution and destruction here in the Gulf, it remains a magnificent natural place to behold.

Our Flight Log is transcribed below.  Our GPS Flight tracks can be downloaded here.

******** On Wings Of Care Flight Log for 20130316 - Saturday  ********
Overflight of Gulf of Mexico:   Taylor Energy, MC252, Breton Sound 

All waypoint numbers below refer to the GPS tracks shown in today’s article at OnWingsOfCare.org.
Times are given in CDT.  
Lat/lons are given in degrees and decimal minutes.
Personnel: Dr. Bonny Schumaker with J. Brayton Matthews of Flightline First, New Orleans’ Lakefront Airport (KNEW)
Seas and weather:  Seas 1-3 ft, winds 10 kts from the south.  
Sky & Visibility: Mostly clear skies,  20+ mile visibility
Flight time:  3.3  hours

Flight route: KNEW - southeast to Taylor Energy, south to MC331 east to Macondo area, north through Breton Sound - KNEW.
Maps of our route showing the following waypoints identified during our flight, plus some relevant waypoints from previous flights, are in today’s article (including a link to our GPS track file).

 

Short summary:
This was a Gulf flyover by On Wings Of Care to follow up on recent observations of and NRC reports about significant surface pollution (oil and natural gas), including two areas of chronic anthropogenic oil slicks -- the Taylor Energy slick just off the southern coast of Louisiana, and the extensive surface sheen seen near MC252 and southward last Friday March 08.  

Shallow and “green water” areas out to about 12 miles off shore: This area will covered with striations - strips of dark and light colors, also some cloudy areas and lines of bubbles and small white pieces of ?. Is this organic matter caught up in some convergence lines? There were so many of them this time, unusual to see.

The Taylor Energy area (12-14 miles off shore, southeast from the delta) still has quite a bit of rainbow sheen, and some of that had what looked like brown weathered crude floating in it. Today the area of heaviest concentration we found ran from west to east  about 1-1.5 nm, and was about 150-200 m wide (north to south).

The Macondo area: Quite different from what we saw and documented last Friday March 08, today this area looked clear of sheen.  The Ensco DS-3 MODU and the BP Nakiki platform (MC474A) remain in their usual positions 12-15 nm south of here (the DS-3 seemed to be oriented differently). Breton Sound: We checked on the sightings reported last March 08 i Eloi Bay, about 40 nm southeast of New Orleans, near a Cox Oil production platform in  Eloi Bay Block 48.  There were no visible signs of the gas leak or rainbow sheens we documented there last Friday March 08. 
Note: We checked all sites of NRC reports east and south of the LA delta that we filed last Friday March 08, which included many in the Macondo prospect. We saw some of what looked like small lines of sheen which we have long presumed to be natural seeps. We have reported only one of those again today; see NRC#3 below.

20130308 -  Waypoints of Interest
(Total route:  ~350 nm)
-- KNEW
-- South-southeastward eastward across Black Bay
-- Taylor Energy (today the heaviest sheen was from GPS #0523 East to 0524)
-- ADIZ:  ~N28 55  W088 50 or ~ 90 nm southeast (~135°) from KNEW
-- MC252 and vicinity
-- Breton Sound, Eloi Bay
--KNEW

**NRC1 - #1041257:  0521:  N29 26.786 W89 32.005  1300 CDT.
This is just south of California Bay and north of Quarantine Bay, north of Plaquemines and east-southeast of Empire, LA. Band of sheen west to east about 1.5 nm long and about 30 m wide.  Silvery (no rainbow noted).

0522:  N28 58.444 W89 05.232   1320 CDT.
Striated lines, dark and light, with lines of foam/bubbles and small white stuff. (Organic matter?)  Covers many square miles.

**NRC2 - #1041256. 0523: N28 56.790 W88 58.482  1331 CDT.  (Taylor Energy)
West end of a line of sheen running west to east, at least 1 nm long and about 150-200 m wide (north to south). Lots of rainbow sheen, some brownish-red weathered crude at the east end of it.
Note that this position is north by several (~4) nm of where we noted it last Friday and where we’ve seen the heaviest concentration in the past.

0524: N28 56.333 W88 56.138  1332 CDT.
East end of the thickest rainbow sheen, where the weathered crude was. Just west of the Nykor Energy platform.

0525:  N28 55.114 W88 54.779  1347 CDT.
Line of sargassum, many patches of it.  Not beautiful sargassum, lots of trash in it, dark brown and looks old (compared to healthier, lush sargassum we’ve seen elsewhere, west of Ewing Bank in 2010, for example).

0526. N28 44.316 W88 49.534 1354 CDT. Matterhorn platform (MC243A).

**NRC3- # 1041259 0527. N28 40.666 W88 30.080 1405 CDT.
Narrow line of sheen, like a natural seep.  Runs southwest to northeast; this point marks the SW corner.  There are actually two lines.  The westernmost one is the thicker one. It is about 1 nm (sw-ne) and about 30 m wide.  Photos were taken from the south end at around 1407 CDT.

VK989 platform (SGY, Chevron): (previous GPS #0515: N28 58.196 W88 37.509 ), 1443 CDT.
Small sheen from it to the southeast.

0528:  N29 12.782 W88 47.262 1447 CDT.
Large ship “European Support” towing seismic sensors (presumably).  (“P&O” on center side.)

0529:  N29 16.689 W88 51.022  1450 CDT. Line of foam, running west to east.

0530:  N29 18.760 W88 53.425  1451 CDT. More lines of foam.

Eloi Bay: (previous GPS points 0519: N29 44.861 W89 23.881 and 0520: N29 45.790 W89 23.753
from 20130308). This is Eloi Bay Block 48.  No sign of the previous rainbow sheens or bubbling gas.

NOTE on estimating oil sheen/slick volumes:
1 acre x 1 micron ~ 1 gal.   263 gal = 1 m
3 = 1 micron x 1 km2; 1042 gal = 1 micron x 1 nm2;
1 nm ~ 2 km ~ 6000 ft ~ 1.15 statute mile (sm).  (1 micron is easily visible from above.)
1 acre ~ 36,000 ft2 ~ 120 ft x 300 ft ~ 30 m x 100 m.   1000 acres ~ 4 km2 ~ 1 nm2.

 

 

 

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