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20160516 Monday
Approximately 200 miles south-southwest of New Orleans, Gulf of Mexico
Oil leak from Shell Oil wells in Green Canyon lease block, connected to Brutus collection platform in lease block GC248
 
     The oil spill you have heard about since last Friday is about 30 nm (nautical miles) west of the Brutus platform in the Green Canyon lease block (GC248), roughly 100 miles south of Port Fourchon, LA.  

     They say they have stopped the leak (which does not mean they know where it is). Yesterday there were two skimming vessels in the vicinity, but they appeared to be on the distant periphery of the slick, and the amount of oil that appeared to be within their booms was pitifully small compared to the size of the slick, which covered over 5 square nautical miles (20 square kilometers, or about 5,000 acres). Even if the average thickness of the visible oil were a mere 100 micron (0.1 millimeter, vastly smaller than the areas of emulsified oil that stretch across the area), the visible surface oil would represent about 500,000 gallons of oil.  We haven't seen images like this since the BP disaster of 2010.
     On Wings Of Care flew with ECOGIG scientist Ian MacDonald yesterday out to look at this spill from the air.  An ECOGIG research vessel was scheduled to be out there to take oil samples, but their trip has been delayed a few days, but they'll be out there this week.  
 
     The blue water far offshore was still and serene, and beautiful except for this huge "blemish."  We were disturbed to see a pod of about 50 dolphin swimming near the slick, as we wondered if they would find what appeared to be only one direction to go that would not put them into a very very long stretch of surface oil.  Flying below 1000' brought in to the airplane a very uncomfortable smell of oil, so most of the time we stayed high enough that the smell was barely perceptible.
 
     The maps, flight log, photos, and video below speak for themselves.  Our videos may also be found on the OnWingsOfCare youtube channel.
 
     Thank you for your continued support to help protect the Gulf and maintain realistic, objective, and responsible assessments of the safety and environmental impacts of offshore drilling.

     Our flight started in New Orleans, went directly to GC248 and the Brutus platform, then west about 30 nm to the location of the surface oil and the skimming vessels, and then back to New Orleans via the MC20 ("Taylor Energy" chronic oil leak that has been documented extensively by On Wings Of Care).  There will be more articles on the MC20 slick and attempts to remove that oil in an article soon to be published.
 
   Here are a few photos of what we found, courtesy of Dr. Ian MacDonald and ECOGIG:

(Put Gallery Here)

Here is a video, again taken by Dr. MacDonald with our Sony HD videocamera. (If it doesn't show up within this article, you can see that video here.):  



Our flight log follows:

**   OWOC Flight Log 20160515:  Shell Oil slick near GC248 and MC20 Taylor Energy  **

Maps, photos, and videos are available by request...please CONTACT US for more information.
Waypoint numbers below refer to the GPS tracks available from OWOC.
Times are given in CDT. 
Lat/lons are typically given in degrees and decimal minutes (except in the table below, where they are in decimal degrees)
Pilot, Crew, & Aircraft:  Bonny L. Schumaker; Ian MacDonald, FSU; N4784E (“Bessie”)
Seas and weather:  Seas <1 ft, winds  southerly 10 kts
Sky & Visibility:  Clear, visibility >6 sm
Flight time:   5.9 hours  
Flight route: KNEW southward direct to GC248, then 30 nm west, then direct to MC20, KNEW.
Actual Flight:  529 nm within an area of 3,873 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. 

 

DESCRIPTION OF WAYPOINTS:

WPT

LAT

LON

TIME

DESCRIPTION

1365

27.787

-91.304

 

Prior night’s reported location of “Deep Blue” skimming vessel. In this vicinity was the Helix Producer I drillship, flaring.

1366

27.769

-91.362

 

Prior night’s location of “Mississippi” skimming vessel. Starting bout 7 nm South of this point, we began to see oil-coated bubbles, lots of pieces of emulsion.

1367

29.109

-90.310

2016-05-15T15:29:11Z

**OIL** rainbow, off Port Fourchon. Rainbow streamer approx 30’wide inside 50-75’ wide line of silvery sheen, approx 2 nm long (NW-SE). In proximity of many platforms. (NRC Report)

1368

28.942

-90.330

2016-05-15T15:34:29Z

**OIL**, silvery sheen, N-S line approx 75 ft wide by 1 nm long.

1369

27.817

-91.517

2016-05-15T16:10:43Z

This morning’s reported position of “Deep Blue” skimming vessel (fairly accurate)

1370

27.900

-91.417

2016-05-15T16:11:17Z

This morning's reported position of “Mississippi” skimming vessel (fairly accurate). NOTE: Both skimmers were to the periphery of the main slick and not near much of the heavy sheen or emulsion at all. I wonder if they need aerial spotters to help put them where it counts?? Or are they this pitifully ill-pitted to the job, seeing that they “lasso” so little when there is so much?

1371

27.712

-90.791

2016-05-15T16:20:36Z

GC159A platform, flaring. Supply Boat “Harvey Supporter”

1372

27.707

-90.800

2016-05-15T16:20:53Z

Natural seep lines in this vicinity of GC248, many such lines, cloudy streamers and extended sheens.

1373

27.701

-90.839

2016-05-15T16:21:59Z

More natural seep lines.

1374

27.827

-91.506

2016-05-15T16:42:56Z

Line of emulsion

1375

27.864

-91.524

2016-05-15T16:44:12Z

Turquoise vessel to the periphery of start of much larger, extended area of sheen and emulsion

1376

27.889

-91.528

2016-05-15T16:47:56Z

**OIL** everywhere, heavy emulsions, 2 skimming vessels at the periphery areas. One small pod of dolphins!  Wished we could tell them which direction to go to avoid the oil, because there was barely one left!  Heavy smell even when we climbed to 1000’ and 1200’ to keep from becoming nauseous.

1377

28.065

-91.056

2016-05-15T17:32:39Z

“H&P” rig.  Bait ball adjacent.

1378

28.801

-89.330

2016-05-15T18:30:08Z

Enroute to MC20 (Taylor Energy), still 32 nm away, and here was a long line of sheen, silvery with some emulsion.  N-S line.

1379

28.835

-89.112

2016-05-15T18:41:00Z

(Same as 1378 above). Rainbow sheen, about 10 nm long

1380

28.888

-89.059

2016-05-15T18:43:22Z

South Pass Block 49-A.

GC248

27.795

-90.648

2016-05-13T19:12:37Z

First target location (where Brutus platform is).

TAYSOS

28.937

-88.971

2016-05-08T19:04:14Z

“Source” (surface) of Taylor slick, sharp line of rainbow with some oil-coated bubbles.