2014 April 11 Friday
Lease Block Green Canyon 600 area -- Natural Gas/Oil Seeps
Gulf of Mexico
Today we re-visited this area located almost 200 miles south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico that is famous for its sea floor. Not because of its exotic beauty or fascinating marine life, but for its cracks, from which emanate massive plumes of gas and oil. Two of these seafloor openings exude such strong streams of oil and oil-coated gas bubbles that scientists have nicknamed them "MegaPlume" and "Birthday Candles" after how they look in underwater camera footage. This is the Lease Block known as Green Canyon 600. A research vessel named "Atlantis" was there this week, carrying several scientists who have studied these plumes for years. They had with them a small boat called the "Avon" which they wanted to use to take surface oil samples from the area. We were there to direct the crew of the small sampling boat to those areas, because as you can see from the photos below, and as anyone who has attempted to find oil or marine life solely from a surface vessel, there is no substitute for "a look from above" for seeing the big picture of where things are.
Here are a couple of photos just to give you a sense of the scale of this seep area. The Atlantis is 274 ft long; the little Avon is about 14 ft long. The surface oil lines stretch for several nautical miles!
This Google Earth map showing our flight path also shows icons which refer to the sightings described in our Flight Log appended below. You'll see the usual red circles denoting oil (circles with lines through them refer to surface oil that is a pollution incident, not a natural seep) as well as other icons denoting extraordinarily large patches or lines of sargassum as well as sightings of whales, sharks, turtles, large fish groups, large dolphin pods, and so on. Unfortunately, on today's flight we saw some fish groups (bait balls) and lots of sargassum, but we did not see any large marine life. We expect that is for two reasons: One, it is still early in the year for large marine life to be returning to feed in the Gulf; and Two, being that we were looking for surface oil, it's not much surprise that we would not find much marine life near those areas. What never fails to surprise us, though, is just how many areas we find with substantial surface oil sheen.
Read the full article and see all of the photos and videos here!