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2011 August 19 Friday
Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi

Today we flew about 500 miles over the Gulf to check out yet more reports of oil.  We didn't even get to some of the places reported, because in just a few hours we had already found plenty in at least four distinct locations -- all within 75 miles of the shores of Louisiana!

Our plan for today was to check out three areas:

1.  Breton Island, where last May we documented many subsurface dark reddish brown plumes surrounding the island rookery and spanning many miles north and south (see stories here).

2  The site of the defunct Ocean Saratoga platform owned by Taylor Energy, whose leak and extensive surface oil slick we documented this past July (see story here).

3.  The site of the Deepwater Horizon (DH) explosion in April 2010, where fresh oil has been reported to be present still.

Click here to read the article and see photos and video of the day's flight, taken by colleagues Jonathan Henderson and Tarik Zawia from the Gulf Restoration Network!

Here's a preview:

We found significant amounts of oil in globule form still at the Deepwater Horizon (DH) site and at the Taylor Energy site, and we saw miles-long surface rainbow sheens from two different leaking platforms between DH and the Chandeleur Islands.  Eight shrimp boats with their nets in the water were within one mile of these two leaking platforms.  In the 'blue waters' out toward the DH site we were puzzled by some long, wide, unnatural-looking dark-green colored stripes.    Finally, dark brownish-red subsurface plumes like what we had previously documented around Breton Island (Mar 2011) spanned miles in width and length, right up to the coastlines, beginning where the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ("MR-GO") meets the Gulf south to Breton Sound.  With all of that, we were ecstatic also to see three sperm whales, one leatherback turtle, four whale sharks,  tuna, redfish, bottlenose dolphin, and cownose rays.

Some things puzzle us: We have seen substantial oil almost every time we've flown in the Gulf since March of this year, and yet we hear about very little of it in the media.  Is that because no one else has been flying over the Gulf to see what's really going on?  Is it just coincidence that all of these other offshore platforms have suddenly been leaking since the Deepwater Horizon (DH) explosion in April 2010?  Or has the Gulf been suffering chronically from this kind of leakage?  How much of the oil we've been seeing this year has anything to do with the DH explosion?   A large fraction of the samples taken from these observed phenomena have contained oil whose 'fingerprint' matches that from the DH site.  That doesn't mean that everything we're seeing comes from the DH incident; but it does seem safe to conclude that 1) oil from the DH explosion has made it quite a ways from the original site; and 2) there are many other oil leaks present in the Gulf!

Read more:  Why hasn't all the oil gone?