20120711-OWOC Gulf Flight-Sperm Whales, Hammerheads, & Rays (& Oil)

2012 July 11 Wednesday
Gulf of Mexico

Today we went searching for whale sharks again, to help a team of scientists who were ready and eager to place some satellite tags.  With serious thunderstorms to the west and east, their target area was south of New Orleans, beyond Sackett Bank and on toward the Mars and Ursa platforms and an area known as the "Mississippi Canyon." (Recall the oil we documented in that vicinity last April 12 and 18?  It's still there!)  Some whale shark sightings had been reported in that vicinity by fishermen during the preceding week, so we were hopeful, even though this area was well east of the Ewing Bank area where we had seen a group of whale sharks on June 29. We did a very careful search of this area for several hours, but we found nothing! Nada. Nobody. Not even flying fish!  It seemed a desert.  

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As we exhausted our search in the area accessible to the boat, we bid them adieu with disappointment. There were heavy thunderstorms between us and New Orleans, so we would have to thread our way westward around them -- which was just the excuse we needed to keep on searching. We headed westward toward Ewing Bank, more determined than ever and all eyes scanning intently through our open windows. 

This year we've found very little life out in the deep water within 70 miles or so of the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010. Each time we fly, we hope that maybe the animals are just late in returning this year. The water looks as blue and beautiful as ever; it's just that we are seeing no fish, no birds, no whales, no sharks. We don't get used to it, and we can't accept it yet.  Not finding life out there just makes us more determined than ever to keep searching. The alternative -- the conclusion that the marine life is just not there -- is as unacceptable to our hearts as it is apparently unspeakable for either government "experts" or the oil companies. Time will tell.

No sooner were we out of radio communication range with the boat than we spotted some fins and spouts! Three sperm whales! Looked like maybe a mother and calf, with a larger male some ways away. The mother and calf were just hanging there vertically, as if perhaps they were recovering from a long dive.  This behavior continued for a good ten minutes, after which we continued on our way to search for whale sharks.   

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Once we reached Ewing Bank, we didn't have enough time to do a careful search beyond where we had found whale sharks June 29, but we gave that vicinity a good look. We found no whale sharks, but we did see two hammerhead sharks, and another one a bit farther north!  And stil farther north, as we reached shallower green water, we were treated to the sights of not one but four different schools of golden rays, each with 12-20 animals "flying" in formation.  That was a sight for our eyes and hearts. The coastal waters also were filled with baitballs of small fish, and a few birds enjoying some early evening meals.   


We photographed some interesting and unusual platforms and vessels out there today that we have not seen recently in this area.  There was a mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) near the Mars and Ursa platforms.  And an impressive looking set of "golden arches" (some sort of derrick) where workers are apparently trying to salvage and extract something very heavy from below the surface. And a research survey vessel of a different sort from the usual, one called the "WG Vespucci" whose home port appears to be Limassol on the island of Cypress, Greece!  ("WG" stands for Western Geco, a business segment of Slumberge that specializes in geophysical seismic studies.)  

We took a few photos of the weather we were passing beside and through, always a beautiful sight over water.  And some of the gorgeous Louisiana wetlands as we flew back to New Orleans.  Finally, since the skies were just starting to clear as we approached the city of New Orleans, we got some terrifically clear and lovely shots of the city.  Enjoy!

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As always, you may download our GPS flight tracks by going to the main menu item "Flight Tracks" and looking for the file from today.  Our flight log transcription is included at the bottom of this article.

We had two great spotters on board today, but because they were enlisted at the last minute, we didn't have great cameras with us, so our photos do not do justice to the animals we saw.  But that we saw any at all was some relief.  Many thanks to Jennifer and Sarah for driving over to New Orleans at the last minute and working hard with us on this long flying day!

Here are photos of the small family of sperm whales -- the one male and the two who were hanging in the water vertically:

Here are photos of the oil from the Shell oil slick between the Mars and Ursa platforms (first documented by us on April 12 and April 18 of this year).  Apparently they haven't managed to stop this leak yet?

Here are photos of sargassum from this flight:

Here are photos of the unusual vessels and MODUs we saw today:


Here are photos of some of the weather we were threading our way through today:

Here are photos of Louisiana wetlands on our way to and from New Orleans:

And lastly, here are some lovely views of the city of New Orleans just as the skies were clearing and we were arriving:


******FLIGHT LOG 20120711 OWOC Gulf Flight*****

On Wings Of Care Flight Log for 20120711, Wednesday
KNEW to Medusa, Mars and vicinity, then west to Ewing Bank

All waypoint numbers below refer to the GPS tracks shown in today's article at OnWingsOfCare.org.
Times are given in CDT.  
Lat/lons are given in degrees and decimal minutes.
Aircraft:  N4784E  Bonny Schumaker with Jennifer Green and Sarah Ashworth (both from the Gulf Coast Research Lab) as spotters.
Seas and weather:  Seas 1-3 ft, overcast with thunderstorms in vicinity, winds 5-15 kts from the south-southeast.
Visibility:  Air medium-good, sea medium-good.
Flight time:  5.7 hours
Flight route: KNEW - Medusa-Mars-Ursa-west-Innovator-Ursa-west to Ewing Bank-KNEW.

The following waypoints were pre-set for this flight, based on whale-shark sightings in the past two weeks around the Mars platform and southward.  Our LDWF crew planned to have their boat between Medusa and Mars, and we would rendezvous with them as we searched.

The maps of our planned and actual routes showing these targets together with waypoints identified during our flight and some key points from previous flights are in today's article.

Intended ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) crossing point enroute from KNEW was approximately:
N28 24'  W 089 27', or about 105 nm from KNEW on a magnetic bearing of 165°.

Rigs in these areas of interest are noted below, for the record.
Innovator:  N28 13.230 W89 36.900
Medusa:  N28 23.554  W089 27.21
Mars:   N28 10.171  W089 13.373
Ursa:   N28 9.242  W089 6.213

Other waypoints of possible interest, west of this area and flown over on June 29, include:
WS6.  N28 8.7'  W090 53.9'
WS2.  N28 0.5'  W091 1.5'
WS1-2011.  N27 56.18'  W091 1'
WS8.  N27 58.27' W089 41.4'
WS4.  N28 13.2'  W089 39.1'
WS7.  N28 15.26'  W089 38'

0346. 1241 CDT. N29 10.229 W89 43.032
Sea turtle, not sure what kind (we didn't slow to look.)

Mars platform (MC801A), with a MODU (Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit) nearby and 2 supply boats.  OIL?  Line of sheen north-south (~5 nm) and about 300-400 nm wide SW-NE.

0347. 1448 CDT. N28 10.561 W89 27.746
Ship, "WG Vespucci".  With heliport and large hangar beneath.  Seismic monitoring?  Large spools on back.

***0348. 1511 CDT. N28 11.598 W89 26.619
SPERM WHALES!  Two (mom and calf?) plus one large one about 50 meters away.  The two were vertical, mouths up, just hanging there.

0349. 1517 CDT. N28 11.112 W89 27.953
OIL -- NE-SW band at least 1 nm long, only about 20 m wide (E-W).

0350. 1532 CDT. N28 10.634 W89 57.686
School of flying fish!  (:--)) (Finally, some signs of life!)

0351. 1558 CDT. N28 00.834 W90 51.745
~7-10 work vessels and the "golden arches" platform or ?

***0352. 1612 CDT. N28 10.858 W90 52.417
Two hammerhead sharks.

***0353. 1630 CDT. N28 21.059 W90 55.983
One hammerhead shark and a very large baitball near the platform.

***0354. 1642 CDT. N28 42.793 W90 48.314
A school of ~20 golden rays (cownose?)

***0355. 1647 CDT. N28 53.472 W90 47.340
Another school of golden rays

***0356. 1648 CDT. N28 54.544 W90 47.020
Two more schools of golden rays and many small baitballs, and some birds!

---------Marked waypoints from previous flight 20120629: 
0324. 20120629, 1305 CDT. N28 09.803 W90 53.365
A tightly-grouped pod of about 35 dolphins!  The first life we saw.  Otherwise, no birds, no bait balls, no flying fish, nothing.

0325. 20120629, 1311 CDT. N28 05.672 W90 57.988
WHALE SHARKS!  Four, then we saw another, and another, and finally another.  Making 7.  They were about 3 nm south of a large stationary (by sea anchor) fishing boat.  On our second trip by this point, within a half-mile of it, we saw three more whale sharks, for a total of 10.

0332.  20120629, 1427 CDT. N27 59.240 W89 51.948
Short-finned PILOT WHALES!!!!  5 + 4 + 2.  At least two pairs of mother-calves (so the total number might be greater than 11). (Thought at the time that these were small sperm whales, as we have seen those here in the Gulf previously.  Learned later that these are short-finned pilot whales!)

0335. 20120629, 1456 CDT. N28 13.560 W89 41.145
OIL?  Definitely an oil smell, and the sheen was in stripes.  West of Innovator platform, within a few miles (slightly more than 3).

0336. 20120629, 1500 CDT. N28 16.410 W89 37.986
Blue-Green water line, with sargassum in it, very long line west-east.

MEDUSA platform: 20120629, Was flaring!

Pellie Lou!

"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!

Or buy from Amazon anywhere in the world, here!


Follow Our Flights!

You can track our paths for several days after them, when we keep our GPS "SPOT" transmitter on "Track" mode. For the latest flights, see
For our latest journeys see (Track our flights).

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! 






Skip the Wonder Sled Dog - 20120930
Happy Update! 20130312 
And ANOTHER UPDATE! 20130821!! 



Last but not left!  20130106
Happy Update - 20130311





20121223-Thanks to Sheba, the rescued and rescuer

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






20121208- 43 Dogs go from dead-end in Porterville to homes and happy hearts!

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!   


20121206-Saga of Squee: From orphan with mange to her own fur-ever family!

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.


Miss T'Chen was lost in Hurricane Isaac, and saved 800 miles away!
2012 Oct 02

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!






7 Lucky dog and 51 (yes 51!) lucky cats and kittens make it to fur-ever homes in Oregon, Idaho, and California!
2012 Sep 24

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!

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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
012 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

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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!
2011 August--December 

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.


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Gunner and Cain - A Very, Very Long Journey Home and the Happiest Reunion Ever!

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).  
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And here's a photo from the happiest reunion ever!



More photos and updated videos here!  


Ten dogs from death row to Canada!

(2011 July)


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Sheba-Cosette - this lovely lady waited a lifetime!
(2011 June) 










Jeremiah - a true friend finds a new lease on life!
(2011 May) 
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Two Giant Dogs & three cats reunited
with their family on Whidbey Island, WA
(2011 April)

Chihuahuas "Betty" & "JellyBean"
fly to their rescue in Bremerton, WA!
(2011 April)

New Year's Rescue:  33 dogs & cats
are flown to rescue in the Pacific Northwest!
(2011 January)









Hounds fending for themselves for years in Alabama fly to rescue in Arizona!
(2011 Mar)





Romo & Stanley are flown to safe havens in Arizona!
(2011 Mar)



Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2013

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Whales, Sharks, & Turtles in the Gulf of Maine - 2012

2012 June
Cool summer Atlantic waters brought us to hundreds of humpback, fin, and minke whale families, plus basking sharks!
NINE days of fantastic footage:
June 15
June 16-17
June 18
June 19
June 20
June 22
June 23

Dominica - The Nature Island!

2012 May
On Wings Of Care
 flies to the Eastern Caribbean for whales and sea turtles!



Read more here!

Humpback Whales!

And much more!

Cape Cod, MA 
2011 July

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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.

2011 April --

“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.”

-Albert Schweitzer

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