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2011 Dec 30 Friday
Gulf of Mexico


Late today we flew out over the Gulf to do some recon and give current coordinates to a boat crew headed out to collect some surface oil samples tomorrow. Too late to make it to the Macondo area, we focused on a site of chronic oil leakage near aTaylor Energy platform destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, about 12 miles south of the Louisiana Delta.  We quickly found a long line of surface oil, about 0.5-nm wide and 7 to 8 nm west-to-east.  The west end is marked by a small orange float and a larger white buoy with an ominous-looking cross on top.  Near the east end of the slick, where it widens some, there is a platform labeled "NKOR Energy."  Enroute there and back we saw two marsh fires and some very dirty beaches, but we also enjoyed the sights of the wetlands, more white pelicans, and a memorable sunset.

All of this and more is documented in our flight log provided below and in the photos and videos below.  The NRC incident report we filed for the oil is also appended at the bottom of this article; the NRC incident number is #999320. And as always, you may download our entire GPS flight tracks and see our position every ten seconds along the route; see today's flight under the main menu item Flight Tracks on this site.
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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2011 December 20, Tuesday
Gulf of Mexico

Yesterday morning, Transocean reported a 13,000-gallon (310-barrel) spill from their Deepwater Nautilus semi-submersible, which is currently drilling for Shell Oil in 7,200' of water about 26 miles southeast of the sunken Deepwater Horizon, in the Appomattox area. The spill was reported to be oil mixed with drilling fluid from a leak in a booster line.  A "light surface sheen" was verified by the U.S. Coast Guard during an overflight.  We arrived there a little after 11am and found two vessels: Akira Chouest and Emily Candies. The seas were too rough and visibility too poor to positively identify any surface sheen. But we can say with confidence that the many sightings of oil in the Macondo area on our last flight, December 09, and on this flight, are not associated with this drilling work.  

Enroute there, and on our way back from there, we found more than we expected we would see with the poor atmospheric visibility and rough seas.  Yesterday and today were the first days of decent flying weather for visual surveys in ten days, but visibility was still borderline due to low clouds and mist.  Seas were 4 to 6 ft too, not great for spotting oil or marine life. But in winter here in the Gulf it's futile to wait for perfect blue-sky days, so we were up and early today.
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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2011 Dec 09 Friday
Gulf of Mexico

Lured by a narrow window of clear skies and calm seas, we had the plane warmed up and ready to fly by sunrise.  We were itching to see the offshore area again, having not seen it for almost a month.  On our last flight (Nov 12), we saw more than a dozen large ships working in a 30-sq-mile area around the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster (the Macondo prospect), in addition to the usual smaller supply vessels.  They provided little information about what they were doing except to say that they were "studying natural seeps in the area."  Aerial dispersant planes have continued to conduct almost weekly flights across Breton Sound, over Grand Isle, and out to the Macondo, with the legal blessing of our government and paychecks from the oil industry to spray Corexit to disperse and sink surface oil. Aware of these flights (even as recently as last week), we were prepared to find little or no surface oil; but we were eager to learn if a high level of work activity was continuing. So we were surprised to find not a work vessel in sight, and scattered patches and lines of surface oil almost everywhere we went!  

Here is a map of our flight track; the red circles are surface oil sightings (those marked "1209" were from today; a few sizable slicks from other recent flights are also shown on this map).  As always, you may download our entire GPS track from today's flight, with descriptions of all sightings and waypoint coordinates, by going to the main menu tab called "Flight Tracks."

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2011 November 12, Saturday
Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana shorelines and the Macondo Prospect revisited

Our first flight over the Gulf since late September!  Air and water temperatures were downright chilly, winds were blowing 20+ kts, the sky was covered with clouds, and seas were a little rough. Not the perfect day for flying or finding stuff, and definitely no longer the balmy days of summer over the Gulf.  But it was the perfect day for our passengers and us to go, and we were eager to embrace this wonderland from the air again. We began by surveying some of the Louisiana shoreline where one of our passengers will be replanting and protecting the fragile disappearing wetlands with berms.  We looked along the shores of Lake Borgne, then down to Plaquemines Parish and flew along the shores of eastern Barataria Bay and on down to South Pass.  Noticed only a few flocks of egrets and some ducks, but otherwise wildlife seemed scarce compared to this past summer and early fall.  That part of the mission accomplished, we headed out toward the Macondo Prospect to see what we might see.