Gulf of Mexico, off of Louisiana
Since our flight last Friday August 19 where we documented surface oil and globules near the site of the Deepwater Horizon Macondo well explosion in April 2010, others have taken boats out to the positions we recorded. They saw, smelled, and sampled just what we had seen. Scientists at Louisiana State University analyzed and pronounced it to be Louisiana "sweet crude" -- common jargon that belies its foul intrusion into the habitat of local whales, dolphins, sharks and other marine life. But both BP and the US Coast Guard say they have sent surface vessels, submersibles (ROVs), and aircraft out there continuously since our report last week. They report that they have seen nothing, that "there is no scientific evidence" of any oil in the Macondo Prospect. Are they flying and sailing with eyes and nose closed?
We are not trying to dramatize here. Certainly the sheens and globules we've documented are not as expansive as what we documented all last summer. But isn't oil that shows up over large areas on the surface of water that is several thousand feet deep more than a minor seep? Grant us the right to a bit of distrust and caution, for where there is this, could there not soon be a bigger fissure or crack to come? And with hurricane season upon us, are we not prudent to ask for all precautions possible at this time?
This is more editorializing than we usually allow ourselves here. On to the facts and photos and videos from two flights made Thursday and Friday, August 25 and 26. Both days had rough seas and below-average sky and water visibilities; Friday August 26 was particularly bad. Stoms since last Friday August 19 had definitely changed things, but as you'll see below, we had little trouble finding surface oil sheen and floating globules again around the Macondo site.
Thursday August 25:
To the Thunderhorse PDQ rig, the Macondo site, and back to New Orleans along the eastern coastline.
Friday August 26:
To the Macondo site to guide a private vessel to obtain oil samples.
Thursday's flight was a long one, in order to check out the giant "Thunderhorse PDQ" BP-ExxonMobil platform (Production and Drilling, with crew Quarters) that sits well over 100 miles from nearest land in over 6000' of water. News reports and satellite images had shown large areas of sheen in this area last week. Enroute there we saw many large tankers and oil rigs and large supply vessels. At the Macondo site we again found sheen and globules. And on the way home we were surprised to find a very large area of thick sheen in the wetlands area northeast of Venice! Photos and details below.
Friday's flight was made in order to direct a boat with scientists and oil sampling equipment to the oil we've been seeing out at the Macondo well for the past week. Even though Friday's flight had no photographers or spotters on board, we had no problem finding the oil even with the rough seas and very poor flight visibility -- it was harder to see the boat than it was to spot the oil! All we had was an inexpensive point-and-shoot digital camera, but you'll see what we saw well enough. Photos and details below.
Remember that you can download all of our aircraft GPS flight tracks with all metadata for waypoints. Just go to the main menu item "Flight Tracks" and download the flight files you want.
Read more: If it looks and smells and tests like oil, isn't it oil?