2013 January 20, Sunday
Gulf of Mexico - Offshore Louisiana, from the Chandeleurs to the Macondo
Everywhere you go along the Gulf Coast, there is awesome natural beauty. Viewed from above, rivers and bayous rule the land mass. Thousands of birds, including huge groups of brown and white pelicans, live and raise their young in the wetlands that separate the Gulf of Mexico from noisy humanity. As beautiful and impressive as the New Orleans skyline and the mighty Mississippi River and its barges and ships are, there is no thrill like flying beyond them, across these grasslands to the open sea.
We fly offshore to find wildlife and to document oil spills and pollution events that threaten the lives of all marine and coastal life. These problems seem to get overlooked to a large degree by humanity, or at least by those with the power to correct the problems. It is a labor of love for us, and it takes every extra penny we have to do it. But the alternative is that fewer people will know of the damage being done and therefore it is less likely to be stopped and corrected. That seems to us an unaffordable shame. We hope that by our sharing what we see with you, you will lend your wisdom and power to help turn the wheels needed to correct these issues.
Since the weather today was spectacular, 100-mile air visibility and seas calmer than we've seen for months, we made a quick decision to go, even though we had no arrangements to fund this flight. Experience has proven that one flight under the right conditions is worth many when weather and lighting are not optimum. One pilot, one photographer, four eyes and unlimited enthusiasm made for great success. We kept close to our plan to check out the surface oil slick in MC253, which we first documented early last fall. It is within a mile of the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 April, and although neither BP nor the US Coast Guard seem to have any idea of its source or cause, it is causing a very sizable surface oil slick, rivaling the chronic Taylor Energy slick off the southern coast of Louisiana in its size. A photo of it is on the left below, with the ENSCO 8502 drilling rig about two miles away. (ENSCO 8502 is a deepwater semi-submersible drilling rig built in 2010 and currently leased by LLOG from Nexen Petroleum for $0.5M/day. It is being used to drill and test up to five wells in the Gulf at about three months per well; activity seen there today suggests flaring is beginning and that they may be completing operations here.)
For comparison, the photo on the right below is the chronic oil pollution site we refer to as "Taylor Energy", named after the owners of the defunct platform destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 along with many broken pipelines which continue to spill fresh and weathered oil into the Gulf at an astonishingly large, continuous flux rate. This nightmare persists barely 12 miles off the southern tip of Louisiana, in "green water" not even a third of a mile deep.
Many more photos and details are given below on these two persistent oil pollution sites. We also documented three other sites with significant amounts of surface oil sheen (and of course filed NRC incident reports for these as well): one that comprised two adjacent slicks in Black Bay off the east coast of Louisiana, one south of the Macondo near a known natural seep in lease block MC294, and one about 15 miles northwest of the Macondo, which also could be from a natural seep, since there were no obvious sources such as platforms or pipelines in the vicinity.
We returned to New Orleans by way of the exquisite Chandeleur Islands -- or rather, what is left of them. How they have changed just in the past two years! For all the damage and changes caused by mankind, it is obvious from the air that storms have also been changing offshore Louisiana markedly. The amount of land surface in the fragile and exquistely beautiful Chandeleur Islands appears to have dropped by 30-50% since the summer of 2010. So has the number of nesting seabirds, and those birds who remain are crowded together very closely. The seas were amazingly calm today. The waters from the Chandeleurs westward toward the mainland were mirror smooth and gave a haunting appearance as the sun dropped toward the horizon.
Last but not least, we reveled in watching white and brown pelicans all over the wetlands and coastal marshes. We have lots of great photos to share with you of those -- like these:
Photos and full descriptions are given below including our Flight Log with descriptions and GPS coordinates for all that we saw. The GPS file of our flight tracks can be downloaded here (or at the main menu item "Flight Tracks" on this website). We've saved the best photos for last -- the Chandeleurs, and photos of wildlife. Alas, today, we saw little marine life, only an occasional dolphin around the Chandeleurs. But oh the birds! Enjoy!
Here are maps showing our flight route:
Here are the first two slicks we noticed in Black Bay on our way southward from New Orleans. (See Flight Log below for more descriptions and exact positions, which you can then find on the maps above.)
Here is the Taylor Energy site:
On our way from Taylor to the Macond area, we encountered a large orange vessel that resembled others we've seen in the past (such as the Helix vessels). It was traveling northwestward at a good pace. A pipe-laying vessel, perhaps? It is called Deep Blue.
Here is a small slick we noticed a bit south of the Macondo, near the location of a known natural seep area in MC294:
Here is the large surface slick that has been sitting over the Macondo area since last autumn, with as yet no explanation from BP or the US Coast Guard as to its origin. Its persistence, even after the weeks of rough weather we have had in recent weeks and months, suggests that its flow is substantial. Scientists who have sampled it have found evidence of manmade products such as drilling mud. If indeed it is coming from wreckage, it is a mystery as to why it is only now surfacing, and its "lifetime" should be limited. Let us hope so!
Here is the ENSCO 8502 rig located in MC253, also shown in the photos of the oil slick above:
Here is a small crescent-shaped surface slick we found about 15 miles northwest of the Macondo area, on our way back to the mainland.
Along the way, we came upon this vessel, the New Venture, towing what appear to be three seismic instruments:
And here we come to the beautiful Chandeleur Islands -- or what remains of these delicate, exquisite islands:
The waters westward from the Chandeleurs were mirror-smooth. Check out this boat's wake, and the sky to the west as the sun dropped toward the horizon:
Last but definitely not least, here are just a few of the glorious avian sites we beheld! Large groups of white pelicans, ducks on the water, and myriad other species enjoying the wetlands and the shallows. The natural pilots of the world, the true experts of flying. And for me, always a reminder of my ever special friend, Pellie Lou.
On Wings Of Care Flight Log for 20130120 - Sunday
Overflight of Gulf of Mexico Taylor Energy & MC252 areas
Times are given in CDT.
Lat/lons are given in degrees and decimal minutes.
Personnel: Dr. Bonny Schumaker with Billy Dugger (photographer)
Seas and weather: Seas1-2 ft, winds ~5-8 kts from the northwest.
Sky & Visibility: Perfect -- clear, 50+ mile visibility
Flight time: 3.0 hours
Flight route: KNEW - Taylor Energy & vicinity- MC252 & vicinity - Chandeleur Islands - KNEW
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 and a Google Earth file).
Gulf flyover by On Wings Of Care to follow up on observations of these two chronic areas of anthropogenic oil slicks since our last two flights, January 04 and 07. (Note the January 07 flight was not blogged, only the January 04 flight was.) We first checked the chronic Taylor Energy slick off the southern tip of Louisiana, then the MC252 area. Taylor is flowing like always. What was surprising was that the Macondo slick is just as large as when we first saw it last fall. It rivals the Taylor slick in spatial extent now, but it doesn’t show as much rainbow (though it shows some) and doesn’t seemt o have patches of highly weathered brownish-red stuff, which Taylor does. We returned to New Orleans via the Chandeleur Islands -- which have diminished in size by over 50% since the summer of 2010. They were beautiful today, and the waters on the coastal side were mirror-smooth, and less than 1-ft seas on the sea-side of the islands.
20130120 - Waypoints of Interest
KNEW - Lakefront Airport
-- Southeastward across Black Bay
-- 0449 (Taylor Energy)
-- ADIZ: ~N28 53 W088 33 or ~ 90 nm southeast (~135°) from KNEW
-- MC252 and vicinity
ADIZ crossing: ~N28°55’, W088°52’ (KNEW - ~90 nm, ~135°).
Destination (for DVFR flight plan): MC252 (KNEW ~120 nm ~130°)
Southeastward from KNEW, across Black Bay:
Many groups of white pelicans!
0461. N29 29.620 W89 28.499 1403 CST.
Small oil slick, ~ 10 m x 100 m long.
(NRC-1, #1036175) **0462. N29 29.636 W89 26.979 1403 CST.
Small oil slick, ~ 20 m X 150 m long.
**(The above two sightings -- 0461 and 0462 -- were submitted as a single NRC incident report. Photos _BLD9309, _BLD9310, _BLD9311.)
(NRC-2, #1036176) **0449. N28 54.552 W88 59.451 1427 CST.
Taylor Energy slick. As big as always today, clearly visible in the calm seas and excellent visibility. ~300-400 m wide (NW-SE), ~2 nm long (SW-NE, approximately 035°). Another narrow finger stretches at least 2 nm to the southwest. Metallic gray with rainbow sheen interspersed and some deep reddish-brown weathered oil in places.
(The above was submitted as a single NRC incident report, #_________. Photos _BLD9327--9364.)
0463. N28 40.102 W88 33.795 1451 CST.
Vessel - “Deep Blue”. Laying pipe? Proceeding northwestward. Located ~5 nm W-SW of MC292, ~15 nm southwest of MC252. (Photos _BLD9373-9383.)
(NRC-3, #1036178) **0464. N28 40.750 W88 28.729 1454 CST.
Natural seep? Small crescent line of oil, just south of MC294.
(The above was submitted as a single NRC incident report, #_________. Photos _BLD9384--9389.)
04401. N28 35.365 W88 19.160 (previous waypoint, from 20121202)
Large mobile drillship (ENSCO DS-3).
0441. N28 31.099 W88 17.216 (previous waypoint, from 20121202)
Platform MC474A (BP), approximately 12 nm south of the ENSCO 8502.
(NRC-4, #1036177) **0465. N28 42.004 W88 19.523 1501 CST.
Looking northeastward, we see the slick extending southeastward from the ENSCO 8502 rig (~150°).
It extends at least 2 nm in the NW-SE direction. It is almost 1 nm wide at its NW end (nearer the rig) and tapers to about 0.25 nm wide at its SE end. Metallic-gray streamers, otherwise light sheen, fairly uniform color.
(The above was submitted as a single NRC incident report, at the location of the ENSCO rig, #0466 above. Photos _BLD9405--9440, _BLD9456--9471.)
0466. N28 44.702 W88 21.573 1509 CST.
This is exactly over the ENSCO 8502 rig. (Photos _BLD9441--9455.)
(NRC-5, #1036179) **0467. N28 55.846 W88 31.061 1516 CST.
Middle of a small crescent-shaped slick, maybe 200 m long and no wider than ~50 m.
(The above was submitted as a single NRC incident report. Photos _BLD9472--9483.)
0468. N29 17.912 W88 46.765 1533 CST.
Ship towing three of what look like seismic/sonar buoys. “Fairfield - NEW VENTURE”.
0459. N29 25.890 W89 13.587 (20130107 - 1116 CST).
Small oil slick - two small oval shapes, heavy rainbow sheen. Sighting from 0107 flight, mistakenly not reported to NRC at that time.
(The above was NOT submitted to the NRC, due to our tardiness in reporting it. No photos of it today.)
CHANDELEUR ISLANDS: Photos _BLD9506--9572.
1) Boat and wake: Photos _BLD9573--9579.
2) Toward sunset: _BLD9580--9595.
"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:
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
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.”