We began flying the Gulf again in mid-March 2011. We had not seen the Gulf from the air since September 2010.  We hoped to find evidence of rebirth, recovery, restoration. We were shocked when, on our very first flight, we found miles on miles on miles of brownish-red water, around the southern Chandeleur Islands and Breton Island, and for tens of miles parallel to the coastline south of Grand Isle, west to east.  In late March, boat crews had collected samples of some of the stuff near Breton Island and pronounced it a match to MC252 -- the Macondo well, site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster almost a year prior.

We flew flights looking for dolphins, dead and alive.  We saw surface oil on every flight through all of 12011, right up to December 30.  We found whale sharks and enabled the most successful season of tagging by scientists ever.  We found sperm whales, beautiful families of them, out in blue water west of the Macondo area.  We studied coastal restoration along Louisiana beaches and wetlands, and we studied the general health of beaches as far east as Destin, Florida and to the western reaches of Louisiana.

There is a considerable amount of photo and video documentation of the Gulf here for 2011. We think there has not been enough complementary collection of samples by boat and subsequent analysis, which are needed in order to understand the sources and future of all the surface oil we continue to see, in the deeper water (more than 45 miles from coastlines) as well as the platform-ridden green water within 25 miles of the coastlines.  

When will we understand what really happened on the seabed in early 2010 when BP was doing its ill-fated drilling?  When will we understand what killed all of the dolphins and sea turtles and other marine life?  These are questions that pain us every time we fly over the Gulf, every time we think about the Gulf.  While our colleagues deal agonizingly with the tragic effects on humans of having had to touch and breathe crude oil from 13,000 below the sea floor as well as the toxic dispersant Corexit in its various formulae, we are not yet seeing sufficient action to understand, ameliorate, and prevent future tragic effects on marine life of drilling in deep water for oil and using toxic dispersants to deal with the inevitable leaks and "spills."  

Twenty months after what was to date the worst environmental disaster we've faced, new deepwater oil drilling permits have been issued, the drilling is ongoing.  And there is oil continuing to show up all over the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.  Hello?  Is this really okay with all of you?

Gulf of Mexico Overflight 2011 Mar 20 Sunday

Today we heard rumors that the oil we had seen south of Grand Terre Island had something to do with a "massive oil slick" that had been observed south of Dauphin Island and was believed to becoming from a deepwater rig known as the "Matterhorn", about 20 miles west of the BP Macondo well.  Unable to confirm this rumor, we decided to flight directly to the Matterhorn and from there to Dauphin Island.
We did that, and we saw no evidence of any large-scale oil spill at all.  This evening we learned something that seems a little closer to the truth...

Gulf Of Mexico Overflight 2011 Mar 19 Saturday

Today we decided to take a close look at  Barataria Bay, Louisiana and southward, from Grand Isle on the west to South Pass on the east.  We had to investigate what we saw yesterday that had looked gruesomely reminiscent of the large oil spills of last summer -- especially the one in northern Barataria Bay at the end of July 2010, when a tugboat accidentally bumped into an abandoned platform and set it spewing, filling Bay Jimmy and northern Barataria.

The moment we reached Grand Terre Island, we knew that what we had seen yesterday was for real. Those long dark red streamers and large sub-surface plumes were now even larger sheets of dark red crude that reached to the beaches of Grand Terre Island.  We tried to follow the stuff offshore to find its source, but could no longer see it clearly after about 30 miles. There had been rumors of the Matterhorn rig being the source (located about 25 miles west of the Macondo well), but since we didn't know for sure, we opted instead to examine these large expanses of subsurface oil and look for wildlife.  The oil did extend for many miles eastward and out to sea, but it did not seem to be coming from far offshore.

NOTE:  Unless noted, no photos or video provided by On Wings Of Care are "photoshopped" or otherwise altered in any way that could degrade accurate interpretation of what we observed.

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Gulf of Mexico Overflight 2011 March 18 Friday

On Wings Of Care has returned to the Gulf by air!  Today we flew the barrier islands south of Mississippi (Cat, Ship, Horn, Petit Bois), the Chandeleurs, and then covered the coasts of Louisiana from South Pass to southern Barataria Bay, Grand Isle and westward to the western end of the Isles Dernieres (Caillou Bay).   This weekend we'll examine Barataria Bay and southward more carefully, and next week we'll cover the waters east of the Mississippi.  People are still awed by how much information we can gather in a short time from the air -- thanks to flying low and slow with windows wide open, combined expertise from pilot and photographer, and our plane's ability to switch into fast mode when needed to get to the next significant areas.

Lots of wildlife to report.  But we saw something very disturbing south of Grand Isle and Grand Terre Island.  We couldn't believe what we were seeing -- it looked like a scene from last June or July!  Something is still very wrong here.  But let's tell you about what was good first.

NOTE:  Unless noted, no photos or video provided by On Wings Of Care are "photoshopped" or otherwise altered in any way that could degrade accurate interpretation of what we observed.

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