20130217 - Clearer views and good news for the Gulf?

2013 February 17, Sunday
Mississippi River - Barataria Bay - MC252 - Main Pass

UPDATE:  Video of the Taylor Energy site has been uploaded; see below. Also, another flight on March 08 shows that the clearer views and good news were short-lived!

We took advantage of gorgeous (but windy) weather and reasonably calm seas to check out some areas in the Gulf today. We started along the Mississippi River where there are several targets of local environmental concern: two large (and growing larger) coal terminals and a new natural pass that is feeding the wetlands but is being blocked by a private road being built. We then diverted west to look at Bay Jimmy and Barataria Bay, where oyster and shrimp fishermen have been extremely hard hit.  From there we flew southeastward over the delta, past the Taylor Energy chronic pollution site and out to the MC252 area (gravesite of BP's Deepwater Horizon). The good news is that the large surface sheen we've been seeing in the MC252 area seems to have gone! On our way home, we flew over the Apache Corporation Ensco 87 rig in Main Pass block 295, which was evacuated a couple of days ago because of an upwelling of natural gas.  Between there and New Orleans, we were treated to gorgeous views of Breton Island and the wetlands.  We also saw the first pod of dolphins we've seen between Louisiana and the Macondo in almost a year! A small pod of seven, but heartening to see.

Here are some "teaser" photos from today.  Many more, with supporting descriptions, are included below. As always, our GPS flight tracks can be downloaded here, and a transcription of our Flight Log is appended at the bottom of this article. 

Here are maps of today's flight route:

We began by flying down the Mississippi River. On our way there we passed over the Chalmette refinery, which is jointly owned by Exxon Mobil and Venezuelan State Oil and operated by Exxon Mobil. From there we headed directly south over wetlands and were treated to the sight of several large groups of white pelicans. 

Our first real target along the Mississippi River was two large coal (and pet coke) terminals -- Kinder Morgan International Marine and United Bulk Coal. They are located on the west and east side of the river, respectively, in Plaquemines Parish. It has been proposed to expand both of these terminals by nearly 400%. It is of considerable interest and importance to understand their actual and potential impact on the sensitive surrounding wetlands.

A little farther down the river we again checked out “Mardi Gras Pass” -- a new pass that the mighty Mississippi River is creating from its east bank. This is downriver of where the levee ends, in Bohemia.  This new river pass is clearly sustaining the wetlands beyond it, and it is also happy home to many otters.  But all of this is threatened by ongoing construction of an oil company road which is slowly filling this pass.

From there, we flew westward toward Barataria Bay, our target of interest being Bay Jimmy. You may recall back in late July of 2010 that a tugboat accidentally hit an abandoned oil well and sent oil spewing into Barataria Bay for well over five days and nights.  It was a horrifying show from the air back then, that continuous fountain of oil spurting into the air and the surface of Barataria Bay turning first gray and then rainbow. We saw no visible surface oil sheen in Bay Jimmy today, but there were several places where the marsh grass looked dead and dark, particularly along the shorelines.  All through the eastern section of Barataria Bay southward, the marsh grass and the shorelines of the small islands looked dark and not very healthy. Back in the spring of 2010, these small islands were densely populated, verdant-looking rookeries. Now they are much smaller in size, and their beaches look dark and dirty.

As we made our way to the southeast corner of Barataria Bay and farther, we saw many oyster boats and oyster farms (I presume that's what is marked by all of these wands in the water?). They aren't alone, as there are gas platforms there as well! It is a busy place down there, for sure.

Not 12 miles off shore we came to that large chronic oil slick off the southern tip of Louisiana known by the owner of the platform that was destroyed there by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Taylor Energy. We've documented this pollution site many times. But today, blue water had pushed closer to shore, and the area here that previously has been covered with expansive surface oil sheen had moved northeastward. We did not trace the slick today, but we flew over a few of the rainbow surface streamers just to show them to our passenger.  The recent weeks of being pummeled by storms and heavy winds most likely contributed to the displacement of the visible sheen today.  These photos, allthough taken from a distance, are sufficient to show that oil still pervades the area.  The photos are preceded by a video taken today:

Dim lights Embed Embed this video on your site  

Next we headed out to the MC252 area. Here we have been documenting a dramatic slick since last August, most recently three weeks ago (January 27). But today there was no sign of that large sheen; the water looked a beautiful blue, almost uniformly for miles around. The ENSCO 8502 drilling rig is still there, and there was a supply boat there as well. If the sheen was residual oil from the Deepwater Horizon wreckage, maybe we’ve finally seen the last of it?  Or could the sheen out here since the ENSCO 8502 arrived been caused by the rig's activities, which have been curtailed in the recent inclement?  Perhaps only time will tell.  In the distance about 12 nm to the south, the BP platform MC474A was flaring strongly, leaving a plume of smoke climbing high into the air. Just to the north of that is the ENSCO DS-3, a large mobile drillship.

One happy event occurred between Taylor Energy and the MC252 area: Near a line of patchy strings of sargassum, we saw a small pod of about seven dolphins! This sighting represents the first significant evidence of marine life we’ve seen in this area since early last summer. It was tough to get good photos of them, as the seas were rough and the air was rougher, and we didn't have good zoom lenses with us; but you'll know they're dolphins! There were also several seabirds in the area, another rare sight in the past year. Perhaps the recent weather and strong southerly winds are good not just for dissipating oil slicks but also for reviving the local fauna?

As we headed back northward from MC252, we again saw what we’ve long presumed to be natural seeps -- small crescent-shaped lines of light surface sheen, in the same places we’ve noted them before.

We returned to the mainland via Breton Sound and stopped at Main Pass Block 295, site of the Apache-operated ENSCO 87 platform sitting in about 200 feet of water, from which 15 workers were evacuated recently for an uncontrolled upwelling of natural gas from the 8300-foot well to only about 1000 feet below the seafloor.  We circled the area looking for evidence of gas bubbles in the water, but we did not see anything definitive.  Numerous work and supply vessels were in the vicinity.

Emerging from the “city of platforms” in the near-shore waters, we saw the beautiful low-profile sandy islands of the Chandeleurs curving northeastward.  We flew over their southwestern tip and then took a quick flight around Breton Island. Pelicans and many other seabirds huddled all over the lee-side beaches, some sitting and others standing up facing into the strong wind like soldiers. When we looked northward, we saw gorgeous wetlands stretching almost as far as our eyes could see, against the faint shape of the New Orleans skyline in the distance. When we looked southward out into the Gulf, we saw hundreds of oil and gas platforms scattered from west to east. The contrast was striking. 

There was one unusual thing about the waters of Breton Sound out to about 20 miles, including around Taylor and southeast of there a ways.  We saw lots of isolated thin lines of foamy bubbles. They resembled the ones we commonly see behind the pogey boat "massacres" (our term for them when we see them), except that there weren't nearly so many concentrated in any one place. And we didn't see any pogey or shrimp boats out there, perhaps because seas have been so rough. We don't know if these lines of foam are organic matter, if they are caused by the recent winds and rain, or what else.  

Last but not least:  
Thanks to Grand Isle resident and Gulf seafood processing giant Dean Blanchard for helping us with fuel costs, and to Brayton Matthews of Flightline First for providing still photos and video.  We were pleased to have Nailah Jefferson with us today. She is using several of On Wings Of Care's videos since 2010 (including some she took with her own equipment today) for her upcoming production of the documentary Vanishing Pearls  about the struggles of Louisiana fishermen since the BP oil disaster of 2010. Check out their trailer! She also contributes to a citizens’ information website called True Advocacy Group which provides accurate representation of the plight of local fishermen in its attempt to accelerate recovery in the Gulf and to promote enactment of new policies and provisions to prevent future similar disasters.


*****  On Wings Of Care Flight Log for 20130217 - Sunday   ****** 
Overflight of Gulf of Mexico:  
Barataria Bay, Apache, Taylor Energy & MC252 areas

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.
Personnel: Dr. Bonny Schumaker with Brayton Matthews and Nailah Jefferson
Seas and weather:  Seas 2-4 ft, winds ~15 kts from the east-southeast.
Sky & Visibility: Clear skies,  50-mile visibility
Flight time:  3.0 hours
Flight route: KNEW - MS River - Barataria Bay -  Taylor Energy - MC252 - MainPass295 (Apache - Ensco 87) - Breton Sound - KNEW.

Short summary:

Gulf flyover by On Wings Of Care to follow up on observations of two areas of chronic anthropogenic oil slicks since our last flights, January 04, 07, 20, and 27 -- the Taylor Energy slick just off the southern coast of Louisiana, and the slick near MC252.  We also checked out some areas of interest along the Mississippi River, in Barataria Bay (Bay Jimmy), and the Ensco 87 rig about 50 miles east of Venice, LA, which was recently evacuated because of an uncontrolled gas flow.

20130120 -  Waypoints of Interest

KNEW - Lakefront Airport
Proceeded south-southeastward from KNEW, along the Mississippi River

0482:  N29 55.876 W89 58.618  1227 CST.
Large refinery south of Chalmette on the east bank of the MS River (last owned by Mobil, not sure if they still own it).

Several groups of white pelicans in the wetlands between Chalmette and the coal terminals!

KDRM: Kinder Morgan International Marine Terminal:  N29 37.436 W89 55.104  1239 CST.

UBCT: United Bulk Coal Terminal: N29 37.100 W89 53.464  1240 CST.

4BAY:  Big Four Bayou:  N29 35.700 W89 45.000  1245 CST.

MGRAS:  Mardi Gras Pass:  N29 31.771 W89 43.622  1245 CST.

BJIM:  Bay Jimmy & northeastern Barataria Bay:  N29 27.000 W89 53.000  1253 CST.

0483:  N29 25.922 W89 55.064  1254 CST.
Areas of darkened and deal-looking marsh along the shorelines of some islands.

0484:  N29 23.713 W89 47.005  1259 CST.
Eastern Barataria Bay. Islands that were populated rookeries back in 2010 are almost devoid of birds now.  Lots of small gas platforms and oyster boats in the vicinity. Are these hundreds of small poles marking oyster beds?

Taylor Energy:  N28 56.27 W89 01.8  1327 CST.
The slick we’ve seen for so long here had moved northeastward from this nominal position. It was also widely dispersed (no pun intended) compared to the heavy sheen we’ve seen here in the past. We did not trace the slick, just flew over a few “streamers” to show our passenger what light sheen looks like in green water.

ADIZ crossing:  ~N28°55’, W088°52’ (KNEW  ~90 nm, ~135°).

0485:  N28 51.047 W88 45.503  1337 CST.
Pod of 7 dolphins! First we’ve seen in since a few individuals seen in this area last summer. They were in the vicinity of a long line of small patches and strings of sargassum.

ENSCO 8502 (MC252-253):  N28 44.6 W88 21.3   1351 CST.
The Ensco rig is still here, but shows little activity. The expansive surface sheen that we’ve seen here since last fall was not visible today!  About 12 nm to the south, the BP platform MC474A was flaring and left quite a trail of smoke in the sky.

ENSCO 87 rig in MainPass 295:   N29 15  W88 45   1420 CST.
We looked for signs of gas bubbles in the water surrounding this, but did not see any.  There were several supply boats and work vessels in the vicinity. This rig was evacuated a few days ago, and reports are that there has been an underground blowout. Thus far, it apparently only involves natural gas, and it appears they are trying to “kill” it from the platform.  In other instances of this happening, the upward-shooting gas also involves oil, both escaping into surrounding bedrock and ultimately reaching the water surface.  (This is what happened with Chevron’s deepwater well off the coast of Brazil in 2011; see this link from Skytruth.org.))

Breton Island:  N29 30.3 W89 10.7  1440 CST.
Beautiful as ever, though diminishing in size every year. Birds of all sorts covered the inland beach areas, facing into the strong southerly wind.


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!  

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012 July 17 - present

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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.
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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).  
20110929-1-dogwalk (1)

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

New Year's Rescue:  33 dogs & cats
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Hounds fending for themselves for years in Alabama fly to rescue in Arizona!
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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
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June 20
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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!

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2011 July

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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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