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2013 July 19--August 21
Gulf of Mexico, offshore Louisiana
Bouma & Ewing Banks east to Mississippi Canyon

Our latest four wildlife survey flights in the Gulf of Mexico were full of unpredicted and unwelcome weather obstacles, but our persistence brought us some interesting surprises! We found whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, pods of spinner and bottlenose dolphin, sperm whales, what we think are Cuvier's beaked whales, yellowfin tuna and other large fish, and a few of our favorite leatherback turtles. We didn't find the numbers we had hoped to find, but it was reassuring to find at least some where we would expect them to be at this time of year.

We also found plenty of surface oil slicks and sheen, which we've come to expect in this area of the Gulf of Mexico. Where there are oil slicks, we do not see much wildlife. In an area larger than 6000 square nautical miles that we've been surveying since last May, we have had a larger number of significant sightings of surface oil than of wildlife. "C'est la vie" in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana!

Here are just a few photos to give you a taste of what you'll find below.  First up are some interesting groups of dolphin, American egrets almost 120 nm off the coast, a hammerhead shark, sperm whales and a group of three beaked whales, and some whale sharks (apparently not in groups and frequently near active bait balls). Next is just one of many extraordinary patches of sargassum, some dark underwater plumes near the coast (algae or hypoxic areas?), a typical flare on an offshore rig, and the famous fisheries research boat from Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF). (You saw that boat in the June 20 article, as the divers tagged 10 whale sharks that day of the 24 we found!) Following that are a few photos of some of the more egregious surface oil slicks, the last of which was just off the eastern coast of Louisiana near Grand Bay. And finally you'll see a few special views of the coastal wetlands and the city of New Orleans. 

Many more photos and videos are included below, starting with detailed maps of where we flew and where the most substantial sightings were, and ending with our transcribed flight logs showing the exact GPS coordinates for all of these sightings.  As always, you can download our GPS flight tracks from our main menu item called "Flight Tracks."

2013 June 30, July 1, July 2
Gulf of Mexico - Ewing Bank and Mississippi Canyon

After our stunning find of 24 whale sharks on and east of Ewing Bank last June 20, scientists made a dedicated long week-end's trip in a chartered vessel, the FV Annie Girl, to see if we could get a repeat performance and tag some more of these gentle giants.  Alas, weather seldom cooperates with long-laid plans, and these three days that had held so much hope did not afford us calm or clear seas. As hard as we tried, blue water was pushed 30-40 nm farther south (offshore) than previously, and visibility both in the air and water was not great from the air. (Which meant it was even poorer from the surface.)  But we made the best of it, and we did see some beautiful sights we'd like to share with you.  And some not-so-beautiful sights, as in a few more significant oil slicks.  So enjoy the  photos and videos, and stay tuned for the articles from our subsequent flights -- July 19, July 31, August 04, August 20, and August 21!

Here are a few of our favorite photos:  Dolphins, some huge baitballs, an enormous beautiful bird rookery northeast of Isles Dernieres, sargassum and various sea phenomena, gorgeous shots of the coast and wetlands, weather near the city of New Orleans and an awesome waterspout offshore, and last but not least (unfortunately), oil slicks and their associated emissions.

Lots more photos below, and videos (there are 21 videos in total from these three days)! We'll start them off with a google earth map showing you where we flew and where the most substantial sightings of each category were. (You'll guess the icons for the various marine life and phenomena.) At the very bottom of this article, you'll see our flight logs for these three days of flying. And as always, you can download our full GPS flight tracks for these days from this site's main menu item "Flight Tracks."  Here are the links to our GPS Flight Track files for 0630, 0701, and 0702.  Happy tracking!

2013 July 10, Wednesday
Isles Dernieres to Ewing Bank area, Gulf of Mexico

This was the day we flew out to document the leaking natural gas well in Ship Shoal Lease Block 225 (photos, video, and story of that are here), and the day we also flew over Bayou Corne for our ninth time (photos, video, and story here).  But between those two pollution tragedies, we observed a lot of sea phenomena, wildlife, wetlands, and city! Hammerhead sharks, rays, turtles, dolphin; many dense bait balls near the coast and Isles Dernieres; and expanses of dark reddish-brown plumes suggestive of a large dead zone just off the coast. We also share here some classic photos of Louisiana wetlands, the mighty Mississippi River near New Orleans, and downtown New Orleans itself.  Finally, we include here our detailed flight log and a link to our GPS Flight Track files.  Enjoy!  

 

2013 July 25, Thursday
Gulf of Mexico, Hercules 265 Rig

The jack-up rig we videotaped and photographed on Tuesday as it was burning and smoking with natural gas exploded that night. It burned all day yesterday. Today it is just a carcass. We'll let the photos and videos speak for themselves.  Here are a few photos; the video and a gallery of more photos is below, with a personal word from us while we have your attention. (thanks!)