2014 August 14 Thursday
Mississippi Canyon, Gulf of Mexico

After yesterday's exciting find of a huge aggregation of whale sharks in the Ewing Bank area, we couldn't help hoping for similar success in the Mississippi Canyon, the area more due south-southeast of New Orleans and closer to the scene of 2010's Deepwater Horizon disaster.  We haven't found whale sharks here yet this summer, but in years past we did find them, so we remained hopeful.  Well, we didn't find any today.  But we did find two large pods of short-finned pilot whales, and one gorgeous huge long sperm whale. The water was beautiful, blue and calm, so we can say for sure that had there been whale sharks surface-feeding in the area during our five or so hours there, we would have seen them. Any day in the Gulf when we find whales and dolphins and turtles is a great day, since we have been seeing so few in this area in the past couple of years!   

Here are a few of our favorite photos from today, which includes some of the always-extraordinary wetlands of Louisiana and the interesting platforms out there:




Here are maps of today’s flight, showing locations of notable sightings of wildlife (and sometimes of substantial amounts of surface oil or sargassum), and some of the platforms or drill ships noted in our Flight Logs.

 



Here are more photos from today’s flight. Special thanks to Sarah Ashworth from the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, MS for joining us and taking some outstanding photographs!  Let’s start with the wonderful lone sperm whale!








Next was the pod of short-finned pilot whales — no, make that pods (plural), for we saw three different groups, all in proximity to each other, and we counted at least 30, 17, and 10 in each of them.







The time between seeing the sperm whale  and seeing the pilot whales was only about 40 minutes, but it seemed like forever, as we saw no animals in between them, even though the water was clear and blue and smooth almost like glass.  Our senses were primed for something, and you know what that means — it means your mind jumps at just about anything. So when we saw what looked like a huge ray, we circled down quickly for a closer look! What we found, way out there about 60 miles from land with not a platform or vessel in sight, was a large brown plastic trash bag…. Sometimes it seems like there’s no getting away from the irresponsible side of human nature.



Here are more photos of interesting and beautiful sights on this flights:  beautiful large patches of sargassum, strange-looking foam and ‘waves’ of light green in the waters within 10 miles of shore, some rigs and vessels and a stark reminder of how we have “populated” the coastal waters with oil and gas platforms, and finally the extraordinarily beautiful and fragile wetlands of Louisiana.