(Update: Article and photos from Dahr Jamail and Erika Blumenthal about this flight are here. Erika's photos are also included below.)
2012 February 29, Wednesday
Gulf of Mexico
Our first flight over the Gulf since late December 2011, for over two months! It was great for us to see it again from the air. But all is not so great with it, unfortunately.
Long before we reached the tip of Louisiana, we noticed that the overall amount of marshland seemed significantly less than had been here this time last year. We also saw quite a bit of marshland that was blackened, as if by fire. We had barely begun to discuss what else it could be other than fire, when we spotted not one but two marsh fires ahead of us! No sign of human presence anywhere near either of them. What causes these? Lightning, perhaps? It was sad to see, for the strong southwesterly winds were sure to burn all of that land northeastward until it reached water. Indeed, on our return four hours later, both fires were still raging strong.
Barely 10 miles off the tip of Louisiana, the chronic oil leakage from Taylor Energy's Ocean Saratoga platform, sunk by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, continues in what looks to be full force. We followed an ugly, quarter-mile-wide line of fresh oily sheen that stretches from west to east for more than 10 miles. The buoy we photographed there in early December remains, but there was not a work vessel nor any other type of vessel anywhere in the vicinity.
We proceeded to the Macondo prospect (vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon disaster of nearly two years ago). Since we have not flown the Gulf since late December, and we have seen no reports from other pilots flying this far offshore, we had no idea where to look for oil. So we decided to return to some of the places where we have been seeing appreciable amounts of surface sheen consistently since last summer. That proved a good strategy, as we found oil and surface sheen almost immediately. And plenty of it.
Not plenty like we saw in 2010, no, not that kind of "plenty." Reports of enormous quantities of oil continuing to gush from a crater would seem to be quite an exaggeration, judging by what we can see on the water's surface from the air. But we do continue to see many lines of what looks like fresh oil, over quite a large area. Some of it is in the form of a very thin sheen, and some of it appears coagulated into thicker, twisting lines and sheets of sheen. They continue to be concentrated primarily in a large crescent-shaped area to the east and northeast of the site of the sunken Deepwater Horizon platform. (That site, by the way, remains quiescent and apparently unoiled on the surface.) This area of consistent surface oil sightings stretches at least 15-20 nm from south to north, is a few miles wide, and is roughly centered from 5-20 miles east and northeastward of the Deepwater Horizon site. In short, the surface is oil is still right where we've been photographing, videotaping, and describing it to you since last August.
We did not see the vast amounts of thick surface oil that we found and reported during late August and early September of 2011. Recall that independent sampling of that oil and of the oil "globules" we documented in that vicinity were determined by Dr. Ed Overton of LSU and others to match the MC252 fingerprint (meaning that it was BP oil from the Deepwater Horizon area). We do not know if the fresh-looking oil we saw today would match that fingerprint. We are eager to ask the US Coast Guard if they are sampling the oil from the sightings that we have been reporting faithfully to the National Response Center, and if so, what they have found. In fact, we'll ask them that tomorrow, when we fly to Morgan City to meet with them, with some journalists who can put those answers on the record for all of our edification.
One other observation from today, which we're sorry to report, has to do with wildlife.
First, pelicans: As we were noticing an apparent diminution of marshland, we also noticed that the offshore islands that seemed to abound as nesting areas in 2010 and even (though to a lesser extent) in 2011 were hard to find. In fact, there were only a few that had pelicans on them, and these small islands were so crowded with pelicans it was difficult to distinguish the birds from each other! We definitely got the impression that they are hard up for nesting places.
Second, other marine life: Typically on flights like this, when seas are so calm and skies clear as they were out there today, we see many large pods of dolphin, bait balls of fish, and at least a few turtles. Today we saw very few fish, four dolphins, and one small sea turtle. That was with three people whose eyes were glued to the windows, using powerful zoom lenses, and flying at 300'-1000' above the water. It seemed almost desolate, compared to what we saw consistently from March through December of last year and the year before. Here's hoping that improves as spring arrives.
Below are some fine photos taken by Erika Blumenthal. Following those are some video we shot while flying along. The video serves to prove that the usual dismissals by cynics that the slicks we observe are merely wind patterns or cloud shadows are invalid. Those sheets and streamers that we photograph and report are not wind rows and not cloud shadows. They are surface oil sheens of varying thickness and states of weathering.
Are these natural seeps? We do not have an answer to that, but we have some questions:
If they are natural seeps, weren't they here before this area was chosen for drilling? If so, weren't they documented, in writing or photographs, somewhere, by the oil companies? And if so, where is that documentation, and why are we not hearing about it, if for no other reason than to put to rest the considerable discomfort we all feel at continuing to see all of this fresh surface oil out there?
Our flight log is appended below, and as always, you may download our detailed GPS flight tracks for today from the main menu item called "Flight Tracks" on this website. We filed National Response Center incident reports for the Taylor Energy and the Macondo area oil sightings, and those incident numbers are noted below.
NOTE: Unless noted, no photos or videos 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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OWOC GULF Flight Log 20120229 Wednesday
KNEW - (MRGO-Taylor-Macondo)-KNEW
4.0 hrs, ETD KNEW 1400 CST = 2000Z, ADIZ at 2030Z,
Return KNEW 1800 CST-0000Z.
ADIZ Xing: 28°55'N, 088°50' W (00:30 min and ~50 nm SSE from KNEW
Numbers 0150-0157 refer to our GPS waypoint numbers, described below in the order observed.
Lat/lons are given in degrees and decimal minutes.
Distances in nautical miles (nm) or meters (m).
(Note that we forgot to turn on the GPS SPOT Tracker until we were into the Macondo area, hence the track starts after waypoint 0154.)
0150 - 2028Z (1428 CST), N29 47.691 W89 44.335
Two small marsh fires, still going strong four hours later on our return to KNEW!
0151 - 2036Z (1436 CST), N29 36.035 W89 35.192
Very crowded small island white pelican rookery
0152 = NRC1= Incident Report # 1004408 - 2104Z (1504 CST), N28 54.373 W89 00.394
Near Taylor Energy "spill". Very long line of ugly sheen, from west to east of their buoy,a t least 10 nm long.
0153 - 2110Z (1510 CST), N28 56.021 W88 54.748
Platform: NIKOR ENergy, MC____.
0154 - 2125 Z (1525 CST), N28 52.828 W88 28.311
0155 - 2144Z (1544 CST), N28 31.138 W88 16.924
BP MC474A platform, flaring.
0156 = NRC2= Incident Report # 1004409 - 2152Z (1552 CST), N28 39.835 W88 09.475
Amid many lines of fresh-looking oil and sheen, this point marked a line of 'globules' like what we had seen frequently throughout this area between last August and December (2011).
0157 - 2158 Z (1558 CST), N28 38.479 W88 10.235
Some lines of thicker, milky-and-brownish colored oil here, among the sheets of lighter surface sheen.
"The Story of Pellie Lou - a Pelican who survived the Gulf of Mexico oil spill"
by Bonny L. Schumaker, Ph.D.
With 46 photos from the Gulf of Mexico.
ALL proceeds go to benefit Gulf wildlife!
Order your autographed hard copies or an electronic copy here!
Read about our rescues under Rescue Tails!
Here are some samples:
Adios to hunger, Bienvenidos a Love!
20130611- Seven lucky rescued dogs from Mexico are now being fed and pampered in southern California, and are ready for their forever families!
From Streets to Royalty!
20130610 - Feline Patience and Humanity at their best brought these two beautiful kitties from despair to delight, after some superb rescue and logistical efforts by rescue groups from all across the country. (This is a "Before" photo! Check out the "After" photos!)
A Dog Named Pepper Doesn't Give up Easily on Life!
20130428 - This 15-yr-old deaf, blind, arthritic senior held out in a hot, dry, desert parking lot until love finally found him!
CHAZ - No Ordinary Extraordinary Cur!
20130422 - Left to die but instead, this super-intelligent deep-hearted dog discovered love, family, and even fun -- from the most unlikely mentors!
Turbulent Trails for Tails from TX-20130413
Six rescue dogs from east Texas find forever homes in Nevada and California!
Who was rescued, and who was the rescuer? Anyone who has known this kind of bond has felt something so deep, so real, so ancient, that it cannot be described with words. These bonds ground us and free us from pettiness in our lives. Thank you Sheba. Rest in peace.
A Letter From Your Admirers! 20121231
This was a last-minute challenge that seemed beyond even our own grandest heroic imaginings. But it turned out not to be beyond the devoted hearts and energies of about 30 rescuers, shelter staff, volunteers, and families working together. Forty-three (yes, 43!) dogs in one day, from dead-ends in a Porterville shelter to homes and real lives with real humans who love and want them. Rescuers ROCK!
Orphaned very young, left alone and hungry til her fur fell out and her skin was covered with mange. Thanks to some big-hearted Texas rescuers, not only did she recover, she found the family who wanted to love her forever. How glad we were to be able to give this little pup with the big paws the ride to the rest of her life!
20121205-Blackie Goes Home at Last, and Taylor Turns Texan!
Four long months since Blackie's lifelong human companion and partner Tammy suffered a serious injury from a passing truck and disappeared from his life. Suddenly Blackie was in a shelter kennel, and Tammy fought for her life as she dreamed of her beloved dog. Thanks to many people, both of these souls survived to find each other again! This was a rescue and a reunion we'll never forget.
The same rains that made us work "On WHEELS Of Care" this week kept us grounded for this trip, which serendipitously combined the transport of Skip northward and the joyful and miraculous reunion of Miss T'Chen, who had been rescued and taken to Illinois after Hurricane Isaac, with her family in Baton Rouge!
This flight went almost as planned, and our plane was filled to over-flowing on every leg. And we met some wonderful new cat and dog rescues in Idaho and Oregon!
20 Lucky rescued dogs flown to homes in Canada!
2012 Sep 22
It turned out to a journey full of unexpected challenges, but these 20 lucky lovable canines who had been through the worst of times in California were just the best through it all, and now they are warming the hearts and laps and lives of some very lucky Canadian families!
Spindletop Scandal and the Search for Scarlett
2012 July 17 - present
With pitbull-like tenacity, we wouldn't take "NO" for an answer. Out of 21 dogs we sought, we have closure on all but two. Alas, one of those two is our Scarlett.
Tale of seven cities, six cats, and five goats!
2012 July 16
Who knows if the pleas for help brought the plane, or vice-versa.
But when serendipity puts this much together, there's no saying no!
Homeless Mom and Pups no More!
2012 July 08
Sometimes rescuers find the IDEAL person to adopt that animal in need ...
themselves! And in the process, a hole gets filled for the entire family.
This lucky mom now lives with Bear, Sheba, and Dave!
From Empty Nest to Love Fest!
2012 May 11
That last urgent plea came for the five orphaned pups ...
but what about the two large senior boys who would probably never get adopted?
Some people are just angels, meant to be who they are and where they are.
Check out these two and their new happy pack!
JEREMIAH has come home to us!
UPDATE 2012 July 7!
2012 January 13
His adopter called to say she had become ill, and could we care for Jeremiah? You bet we could. We rented a plane and flew to Arizona and retrieved him immediately. Jeremiah was indeed a true friend, and we aim to be his true friends, too. He has been eating like crazy and slept his stress away for the first few days, and now he's acting like a young dog again. Read more here!
CHAMP found at the airport!
2012 January 01
A sad, scared but dignified young Champ quickly won the hearts of everyone who met him at the New Orleans airport, and within two days we had permission from his original breeders to give him to a young couple with a younger female boxer mix, all of whom fell totally in love with him at first sight! Champ and Miss Princess are leading the good life now, and Champ's new dad finally has the fishing buddy he wanted! They tell us we made their dreams come true. We think they made Champ's come true, too.
Abby & Dinozo -- Two of a Kind!
2011 September--2012 January
Orphaned brother and sister, rescued and adored until calamity struck and they lost their family. Orphaned again, these gentle gems and perfect canine citizens found love and adventure with us until we found them their true forever home! Abby & Dinozo came with us to Washington January 7, and they were welcomed warmly and immediately into a home. Read more here!
Yo! Get a Load of Yolo!
2011 November--2012 January
Left in the cold, high in the mountains of southern California, life was over before it had barely begun for this orphan teenager.
Little did he know, his adventures had only begun! As of January 7, it's back to snow but this time with a family who adores him, and lots of fun and play in the Pacific Northwest!
Saving Scarlett -- Love Forever at Last!
Found on the streets, teats full but puppies absent, a battle-torn very hungry pitbull.
Hardly that sought-after doggie in the window.
But after we brought Miss Scarlett home to love and food, warmth and stuffed animals,
we discovered a warm heart and sweet spirit that changed us forever.
2011 July--September 29, A Joyful Reunion At Last!
Here they are during their flight with four other dogs Sep 29 (New Orleans to Oakland, CA, fuel stop in Roswell, NM).
And here's a photo from the happiest reunion ever!
More photos and updated videos here!
Sheba-Cosette - this lovely lady waited a lifetime!
Jeremiah - a true friend finds a new lease on life!
Two Giant Dogs & three cats reunited with their family on Whidbey Island, WA
Chihuahuas "Betty" & "JellyBean" fly to their rescue in Bremerton, WA!
New Year's Rescue: 33 dogs & cats are flown to rescue in the Pacific Northwest!
Hounds fending for themselves for years in Alabama fly to rescue in Arizona!
Romo & Stanley are flown to safe havens in Arizona!
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2013
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf - 2013
Jul19-Aug21 - Wildlife Surveys
Jun30-Jul2 - Whale Shark Searches
July 25 - Hercules Today!
July 23 - Hercules Blowout
July 10 - From sea to city
July 10 - Gas Well Leak
June 19-20 - WHALE SHARKS!
June 03 - OIL
May 23-24 - WILDLIFE!
Tue Apr 02 - OIL
Sat Mar 16 - OIL
Fri Mar 08 - OIL
Sun Feb 17 - Coal&Oil
Sun Jan 27 - OIL
Sun Jan 20 - OIL
Fri Jan 04 - OIL
2013 Nov 24 - Bayou Corne #14
2013 Sep 26 - Bayou Corne #13
2013 Jul22-29 - "Flying Stars" - STKIs
2013 Jul 28 - Bayou Corne #11
2013 Jul 23 - Bayou Corne #10
2013 Jul 10 - Bayou Corne #9
2013 Jun 08 - Bayou Corne #8
2012 May 06 - Bayou Corne #7
2013 Apr 12 - Mayflower, AR Pipeline Spill
2013 Apr 02 - Bayou Corne #6
2013 Mar 23 - IMMS Marine Mammals
2013 Mar 19 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#5
2013 Feb 15 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#4
2013 Jan 26 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#3
2012 Dec 24 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#2
2012 Nov 08 - Tar Sands and Texas
2012 Aug 30 - Hurricane Isaac Conquered
2012 Aug 28 - Hurricane Isaac Arrives!
2012 Aug 13 - Sinkhole in Bayou Corne, LA
2012 Jun 13-Dispersant Spraying Exercise off LA
2012 April - Chronicles of the Endeavor
2012 Dec 10 - How Dilute is Dilute Enough?
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2012
Sat Nov 17 - Platform Explosion
Wed Nov 14 - Barrier Islands 1
Sat Nov 10 - OIL
Fri Nov 09 - OIL
Sat Oct 06 - Whale Sharks
Fri Oct 05 - OIL
Fri Sep 14 - OIL
Sun Sep 09 - Hurricane Isaac
Sun Aug 12 - Whale Sharks
Wed Jul 11 - Whales & More
Fri Jun 29 - Whale Sharks & More
Dominica - The Nature Island!
On Wings Of Care flies to the Eastern Caribbean for whales and sea turtles!
Read more here!
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2011
Sperm Whales & Whale Sharks:
Cape Cod, MA
Our Gift for YOU for 2011!
Click Here to Smile
from your heart, out!
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf, 2010
Galapagos Veterinary Support
Galapagos vets do much with little,
thanks to true friends who shipped a TON of supplies and meds from the U.S. in June, 2011.
“Man can no longer live for himself alone. We must realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe.”