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2014 June 18 Wednesday
Mississippi Canyon, Gulf of Mexico
OWOC’s fourth Whale Shark search of 2014, and our first search with a tagging boat in the Mississippi Canyon area (WS4-MC2)

On this fourth search of the season for whale sharks, we were a few days late for the full moon because we had had to wait for calmer seas and better visibility.  Our plan was to head first to an area near the “Tinkerbell” platform (MC274 lease block), where there had been a few reports from fishermen of whale shark sightings. No one had reported seeing any groups of whale sharks, so finding just single animals was going to be a long shot, but as always such a search is much more promising by air than by boat.

Here are maps showing our flight route today (in magenta).  Blue water and heavy storms forced us to remain farther east than the standard survey grid; and of course, when we work with a boat, we also restrict our area to points that the boat can reach easily. The icons show some of the more substantial sightings of fish, dolphin, sargassum, … and oil.  We’ve also overlaid today’s Mississippi Canyon flight with the first survey flight here from May 21, when we flew the entire survey grid. (See that report here.)

The sargassum was awesome again, and the wetlands were particularly beautiful as we threaded our way through many areas of thunderstorm development on the way back to New Orleans. We saw a pod of about 50 bottlenose dolphin west of the Tinkerbell platform and more dolphin with some very large fish jumping near the Medusa platform, but alas, no whales or whale sharks.  We also saw a lovely small group of white pelicans near South Pass.

About 60  nm downriver from New Orleans, we saw the federally-owned old Fort Jackson on the west bank. Its manicured lawns and easy road access contrasted strongly with the privately-owned, neglected Fort St. Phillip on the east bank.  Both were built during Andrew Jackson’s time for the War of 1812.  They were fortified and occupied during the Civil War and again during the Spanish American war.

Here are some of our favorite photos from today, followed by galleries of additional photos, and finally our detailed Flight Log.

Here are more of our favorite photos, arranged roughly by subject matter.  These are followed by galleries of more photos, and finally by our detailed Flight Log. Many thanks to Terese Collins from Biloxi, MS for her terrific photos, and to Don Abrams from Ocean Springs, MS for his fountain of knowledge and video skills. And to both of them for being OWOC’s and the Gulf Coast’s most dedicated and enthusiastic spotters!  And to all who help us and scientists in finding, identifying, and satellite tagging whale sharks, so that we can begin to understand more about these amazing animals and guests of the Gulf of Mexico!

Here are photos and a video of the oil slick near the Moxie platform, plus some other areas of substantial surface sheen about 30 nm southeast of Moxie.

Here are some of our favorite photos of the wetlands, coastal areas, and the river as we returned to New Orleans.

Below, as promised, are galleries of additional photos, followed by our detailed Flight Log for today.

Here is the first large pod of dolphins near the Tinkerbell platform (MC724), and some mysterious trash (?) near the Lena platform (MC280):

Here is the oil slick near Moxie, as well as miscellaneous other surface oil sheens observed (locations noted in the photo or in our Flight Log below), including some heavy weathered oil just north of the Taylor Energy site off the coast of Louisiana:

Here are some interesting vessels and platforms, including the Fisheries Research boat near Tinkerbell and later near Whodat:

Here are more photos of the awesome sargassum and other sea phenomena:

And last but definitely not least, more photos of the beautiful coastal areas and wetlands, and some of the mighty Mississippi River as we made our way back to New Orleans, followed by a few photos Terese snapped of Don and Bonny hard at work in the airplane — and Don preparing to try landing Bessie from the right seat, bringing us successfully home to our wonderful home base Flightline First at Lakefront Airport.


*****  On Wings Of Care Flight Log for 20140618 Wednesday  *****
Whale Shark Survey in the Gulf of Mexico

Mississippi Canyon Survey #2 for 2014 (2014 WS4-MC2)

Note:  Flight Route is Magenta on Map


All waypoint numbers below refer to the GPS tracks shown in today’s article at

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 & Aircraft:
Bonny L. Schumaker, Ph.D. (ATP, CFI-AIM), N4784E (“Bessie”)
Spotters/Crew: Don Abrams, Terese Collins

Seas and weather: Seas 1-3 ft, winds 10 kts from the south-southeast
Sky & Visibility: Mostly clear, 10-mile visibility. 
Flight time: 6.1 hours

Flight route: KNEW - south to northeast corner of MC grid, then west to edge of blue or blue-green water, staying in eastern portion of survey grid where water visibility was sufficient to confirm presence of marine life near surface.

Actual Flight: 733 nm within an area of 354 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 (including a link to our GPS track file).


DVR FLT PLAN: (Xpdr____):

N4784E, C172/U 115 kts. KNEW ETD 11450Z, <1,500’, KNEW. ETE: 6.0 hrs. Wildlife survey.
First Dest: ~150 nm south (173°) of KNEW
ADIZ-Back: ~N28 44.8 W089 44.5


New Waypoints and sightings: