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2014 April 11 Friday
Lease Block Green Canyon 600 area -- Natural Gas/Oil Seeps
Gulf of Mexico 

Today we re-visited this area located almost 200 miles south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico that is famous for its sea floor.  Not because of its exotic beauty or fascinating marine life, but for its cracks, from which emanate massive plumes of gas and oil. Two of these seafloor openings exude such strong streams of oil and oil-coated gas bubbles that scientists have nicknamed them "MegaPlume" and "Birthday Candles" after how they look in underwater camera footage. This is the Lease Block known as Green Canyon 600. A research vessel named "Atlantis" was there this week, carrying several scientists who have studied these plumes for years. They had with them a small boat called the "Avon" which they wanted to use to take surface oil samples from the area. We were there to direct the crew of the small sampling boat to those areas, because as you can see from the photos below, and as anyone who has attempted to find oil or marine life solely from a surface vessel, there is no substitute for "a look from above" for seeing the big picture of where things are.  

Here are a couple of  photos just to give you a sense of the scale of this seep area.  The Atlantis is 274 ft long; the little Avon is about 14 ft long.  The surface oil lines stretch for several nautical miles!

This Google Earth map showing our flight path also shows icons which refer to the sightings described in our Flight Log appended below.  You'll see the usual red circles denoting oil (circles with lines through them refer to surface oil that is a pollution incident, not a natural seep) as well as other icons denoting extraordinarily large patches or lines of sargassum as well as sightings of whales, sharks, turtles, large fish groups, large dolphin pods, and so on. Unfortunately, on today's flight we saw some fish groups (bait balls) and lots of sargassum, but we did not see any large marine life. We expect that is for two reasons: One, it is still early in the year for large marine life to be returning to feed in the Gulf; and Two, being that we were looking for surface oil, it's not much surprise that we would not find much marine life near those areas.  What never fails to surprise us, though, is just how many areas we find with substantial surface oil sheen.

Here are some photo galleries from this  flight.  We also took videos, which will be posted on the On Wings Of Care youtube site with links provided below.  Our detailed Flight Log is appended at the bottom of this article.

This first gallery consists of oblique photos taken from the side windows of our plane, most of them by Oscar Garcia-Pineda, Oceanographer from Florida State University at Tallahassee. 


This next gallery shows some very interesting photos taken looking directly down at the oil (nadir-viewing), which are followed by four videos also taken looking directly down. These photos and videos were taken by Samira Daneshgar, researcher and oceanographer at Florida State University.  We've tried to crop the sun glint out of most of these, which became increasingly inconvenient as the sun rose higher in the sky.  These nadir-viewing images are much like Google Earth satellite images and are surprisingly unnatural to the human eye, which is used to seeing things obliquely. Scientists use these kinds of images, combined with knowledge of our altitude and speed and the sun angle, to draw inferences about the thickness, type, and even the age of the surface oil.  Unnatural as they are for identifying objects, the vertical view makes for some very artistically interesting views of the patterns that oil makes in the sea.

Here are the four nadir-viewing videos:

See the other articles from this busy day for photos and videos of a non-natural oil slick near the Louisiana coastline (Taylor Energy) plus some dramatic offshore sargassum (that article here), and some beautiful views of some of the barrier islands and coastal wetlands of Louisiana (that article here). 

****  On Wings Of Care Flight Log for 20140411- Friday  **** 
Oil sheen survey with Florida State Univ’s Oscar Garcia, Samira Daneshgar

(Supporting Ian MacDonald & ECOGIG colleagues in research vessel Atlantis)

GC600  - MC252 - MC118 - Taylor Energy (MC20)

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 (or, as in the table below,  in decimal degrees)
Pilot: Bonny L. Schumaker, Ph.D. (ATP, CFI-AIM)
Spotters/Crew: Oscar Garcia, Samira Daneshgar (FSU / ECOGIG)  (Ian MacDonald and other ECOGIG colleagues were in research vessel Atlantis near GC600)
Seas and weather: Seas 1-3 ft, winds 10 kts from the west 
Sky & Visibility: Mostly clear, 10-15-mile visibility.  
Flight time: 5.4 hours
Flight route: KNEW - south to the old burned Hercules platform, then some previous oil sightings, then GC600. Then northeast to MC252, northwest to MC118 and then to Taylor Energy (MC20) , then return to KNEW.
Actual Flight: 664 nm within an area of 9,505 sq nm
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).

 

DVR FLT PLAN: (Xpdr____):
N4784E, C172/U 115 kts. KNEW ETD 11450Z, <1,500’, KNEW. ETE: 6.0 hrs. Oil sheen spotting.
First Dest: ~165 nm south (180°) of KNEW (GC600, N27°20’,  W090° 33’)
ADIZ-Out: ~N28 23 W090 32.     ADIZ-Back: ~N28 48 W089 00 

 

New waypoints and sightings:


GPS#

LAT

LON

TIME (Z)

DESCRIPTION

950

28.66

-90.44

2014-04-11T12:45:49Z

Many small bait balls

951

28.51

-90.48

2014-04-11T12:50:53Z

Large sargassum patties

952

28.39

-90.52

2014-04-11T12:55:29Z

Hardly anything left of the Hercules platform (burned 2013 July). Also lots of sargassum between here an GC600.

953

27.74

-90.53

2014-04-11T13:17:34Z

Oil line, NE-SW, ~ 1 nmlong x ~300m wide.  Also two platforms, one to NE and one to NW.  Near previous GPS #s 0435 and 0232.

954

27.60

-90.56

2014-04-11T13:22:48Z

Smaller seep line, near previous GPS#s 4251 and 0233.

955

27.38

-90.56

2014-04-11T13:40:11Z

East end of GC600

956

27.38

-90.57

2014-04-11T13:43:26Z

West end of north line

957

27.37

-90.57

2014-04-11T14:24:27Z

“Avon” sampling boat at oil slick origin they call “Mega Plume”  (NW of the research vessel Atlantis)

958

27.54

-90.33

2014-04-11T14:34:36Z

MUCH sargassum, many lines and small-to-medium size patches.  Many N-S lines, each 2-3 nm long, these lines stretching parallel to each other for about 1 nm E-W.

959

27.59

-90.30

2014-04-11T14:36:25Z

MODU “Deepwater Pathfinder”

960

27.94

-89.96

2014-04-11T14:50:24Z

ENSCO 8501 drilling platform + 2 supply boats

961

27.95

-89.92

2014-04-11T14:51:50Z

Oil slick or natural seep? about 0.7 nm long x 10 m, with some sargassum in it.

962

28.14

-89.76

2014-04-11T15:00:10Z

Long line of sargassum, N-S

963

28.30

-89.69

2014-04-11T15:05:29Z

MC709 and this point, widespread light slicks, mostly running NW-SE.  Also much sargassum to west of MC709.

964

28.33

-89.51

2014-04-11T15:10:51Z

Sargassum - large patches and lines, beautiful patterns, mostly SE-NW.

965

28.40

-89.03

2014-04-11T15:25:19Z

Very Long sargassum line, NW-SE

966

28.70

-88.60

2014-04-11T15:40:44Z

(West of MC252) MODU “Atwood Advantage”

967

28.81

-88.24

2014-04-11T15:52:34Z

2 isolated lines of sheen, about 7 nm W of MC252. ~ 5 m wide (NE-SW) x ~0.5nm long (NW-SE).
MODU Transocean “Deepwater Champion”, many birds. Also small slick near MC166 seen.

968

28.85

-88.50

2014-04-11T16:00:16Z

Blue & White vessel (Research? 6-7 letters, couldn’t read). N of it was a slick line, SE-NW.

969

28.90

-88.77

2014-04-11T16:06:58Z

Blue-Green water line, unusually distinct and beautiful.

970

28.98

-88.93

2014-04-11T16:12:18Z

East “end” of the Taylor Slick, really ugly today.