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2011 Aug 19 OWOC Gulf Flight - Why hasn't all the oil gone?

2011 August 19 Friday
Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana and Mississippi

UPDATED 2011 Aug 25 -- gps coordinates and times for all photo subjects, plus one more video, and the entire Flight Track with position coordinates and times is now available at the main menu "Flight Tracks"!

Today we flew about 500 miles over the Gulf to check out yet more reports of oil.  We didn't even get to some of the places reported, because in just a few hours we had already found plenty in at least four distinct locations -- all within 75 miles of the shores of Louisiana!

Our plan for today was to check out three areas:

1.  Breton Island, where last May we documented many subsurface dark reddish brown plumes surrounding the island rookery and spanning many miles north and south (see stories here).

2  The site of the defunct Ocean Saratoga platform owned by Taylor Energy, whose leak and extensive surface oil slick we documented this past July (see story here). 

3.  The site of the Deepwater Horizon (DH) explosion in April 2010, where fresh oil has been reported to be present still.  

We've included a few photos in the descriptions of each significant sighting below; see the galleries below the article for many more photos and videos taken today by our friends from Gulf Restoration Network (GRN; Jonathan Henderson and Tarik Zawia).   The GRN blog and link to photos can be found here.  


[Note: To see exactly where this flight took us and look at the waypoints we marked, download the free program called "Base Camp" from Garmin (here).  Then go to our main menu item titled "Flight Tracks" and download the .gpx file (a BaseCamp file), which will give you our  entire flight track superposed on a map, with position (lat/long) info and time stamp for all waypoints we entered during the flight.  Just select a particular waypoint number, it will be highlighted on the flight track, and the date, time, altitude, latitude, and longitude will appear at the bottom of the page.  The metadata on the photos also contains date/time stamps for full correlation; we have outlined below the gps coordinates for the waypoints we marked for all major photo subjects.]


As we headed toward Breton Island, just about at the point where the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ("MR-GO") meets the Gulf (waypoint "9113" in the BaseCamp file -- lat/longs N29°44.350', W089°28.887' W),  we began to see vast sheets of those dark reddish brown subsurface plumes and streamers again.  They extended to and beyond Breton Island (roughly lat/long 29°30'N, -088°10'W), and they reached right up to the coastlines.  We would love to hear from experts out there who could improve on our naive speculations about whether this was algae, part of a dead zone, a mix of Mississippi river sediment, or whether it could be related to subsurface oil leaks.   We saw little or no sheen with it, nor did the coastal vegetation look burned.   All photos of this brown-red stuff were taken between 1031 and 1103 CDT.  
If you have ideas of what this stuff is, please email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ! We always welcome comments, questions, and edification!  Here are a few photos; see the galleries below for more.

NOTE:  Unless noted, no photos or video 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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Next we headed toward the Taylor Energy (Ocean Saratoga) site (roughly 29°'N, -089°W, waypoint  9110).  Not far from there we saw four buoys and a large vessel with platform for a submersible, and trailing for about a half-mile behind that vessel but not obviously coming from it was a line of strange-looking oily spherical globules.  Later we would see much more of this strange-looking oily stuff near the DH site.

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Heading toward the DH site (our gps waypoint #9111),  we came across an interesting vessel with "HELIX" printed on its side, and we noted that their submerged equipment must have been about as deep as they could put it, for their cable was run out to the max.  If you look at our gps map, the waypoint position for the "Helix" was number 9114 in the screen shot of our gps map below. These phots were taken at 1157 -1158 CDT.  (The gps file will tell you that the photo was taken from about 600' above the water at lat/longs N28°42.160', W088°35.994'.)  

We also saw some very strange expanses of greenish linear plumes, each maybe 300 feet wide and separated from the next one by about that same distance, running south to north (roughly).  Maybe someone out there can tell us what these were?  The gps mark for these was #9115:  N28°42.962', W088°30.952', and the photos were taken between 1202 adn 1205 CDT.  After these disappeared, we did see one large pod of bottlenose dolphins. 

We also came across an unusual 'string' of buoys, apparently anchored; some sort of sounding measurements?  The gps point for these was #9116:  N28°44.752', W088°25.793, and the photos were taken at 1209 CDT.

As we reached the DH site, we began to see numerous collections and lines of  those strange-looking globules in what was otherwise smooth blue water.  More photos and videos of these things are included in the galleries at the end of this article. There were many more trails of globules than marked with gps waypoints, but the two waypoints we marked were #9117, at N28°44.1188', W088°23.016', and #9118: N28°43.743', W088°08.923.  The photos of these globules were all taken between 1213 and 1221 CDT.

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We decided to explore farther east, in part because there were more platforms in that directions with smaller vessels (presumably supply boats) around them.  We wanted to see if those  "40 shrimp boats" rumored to have been out there earlier this week might still be there!

We saw no shrimp boats, but we did begin to see bait balls jumping with tuna.  I told my passengers that last year around this time, we used to find whale sharks at the center of those bait balls…. so of course we had to check some of them out.  BINGO!  Within ten minutes we had found four whale sharks, one in each active bait ball we explored!  These sightings correspond to waypoints #9119 -- N28°44.107', W088°09.387' (two whale sharks in close proximity -- but still in distinct bait balls) and #9120 -- N28°49.266', W088°16.129'.  The whale-shark photos were all taken between 1227 and 1247 CDT.

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Continuing northwestward, roughly back toward New Orleans, we spied a lone sperm whale (waypoint #9121 -- N28°53.413', W088°22.506'), and nearby a leatherback turtle!  The lone sperm whale photos were all taken between 1255 and 1301 CDT.  
Soon after we came across a pair of sperm whales -- looked like a mom and teenager (waypoint #9122 -- N28°53.918', W088°22.672')!  These photos were taken betwen 1302 and 1304 CDT.

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Oh this was getting to be really fun (way more fun that seeing oil where there should be blue water).


Farther north, as blue water faded to green, we began to see dense arrays of oil platforms.  And soon after that we saw a barge pulling large pipes (for dredging? or perhaps oil pipeline?) and another towboat nearby pulling what looked to be the top of an offshore drilling platform (#9123 -- N29°07.729', W088°38.327').  These photos were taken between 1321 and 1325 CDT.

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Then came the oil sheen… ugh (#9124 -- N29°13.147', W088°38.469'); photos taken between 1328 and 1332 CDT. This sheen extended at least a mile north-to-south -- but there were no rigs or platforms nearby.  Was this a leaking pipeline?  These photos were taken between 1328 and 1332 CDT.  And then, within a mile to the north and northeast, there were one, two, ….. EIGHT shrimp boats in the near vicinity, all with their nets down!  We wondered if they knew that all this oil was floating so close to them.

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We continued homeward toward New Orleans, observed another surface sheen, about 2 miles long (northeast to southwest; waypoint #9125 -- N29°32.556', W089°07.828').  Nearby there was a platform with a jack-up barge next to it.  And just to the northeast of that (waypoint #9126 -- N29°34.394', W089°07.045') we saw some very serious surface rainbow sheen, at least two miles long and joining the previous one.  The platform was labeled "BSBLK21".  Not only was the facility leaking badly, they must have known they were having some problem with gases, because a short distance away they were burning their flare.  We later reported this and the two other leaking sites to the NRC.  These photos of the second slick were taken between 1355 and 1402 CDT.

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We also saw many schools of redfish scattered to the southwest of this area, and a large school of cownose rays northwest of here, sitting along a very distinct convergence line.

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To summarize: 
We found significant amounts of oil in globule form still at the Deepwater Horizon (DH) site and at the Taylor Energy site, and we saw miles-long surface rainbow sheens from two different leaking platforms between DH and the Chandeleur Islands.  Eight shrimp boats with their nets in the water were within one mile of these two leaking platforms.  In the 'blue waters' out toward the DH site we were puzzled by some long, wide, unnatural-looking dark-green colored stripes.    Finally, dark brownish-red subsurface plumes like what we had previously documented around Breton Island (Mar 2011) spanned miles in width and length, right up to the coastlines, beginning where the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet ("MR-GO") meets the Gulf south to Breton Sound.  With all of that, we were ecstatic also to see three sperm whales, one leatherback turtle, four whale sharks,  tuna, redfish, bottlenose dolphin, and cownose rays. 

Some things puzzle us:  We have seen substantial oil almost every time we've flown in the Gulf since March of this year, and yet we hear about very little of it in the media.  Is that because no one else has been flying over the Gulf to see what's really going on?  Is it just coincidence that all of these other offshore platforms have suddenly been leaking since the Deepwater Horizon (DH) explosion in April 2010?  Or has the Gulf been suffering chronically from this kind of leakage?  How much of the oil we've been seeing this year has anything to do with the DH explosion?   A large fraction of the samples taken from these observed phenomena have contained oil whose 'fingerprint' matches that from the DH site.  That doesn't mean that everything we're seeing comes from the DH incident; but it does seem safe to conclude that 1) oil from the DH explosion has made it quite a ways from the original site; and 2) there are many other oil leaks present in the Gulf!

We intend also to fly over a large semi-submersible oil platform located about 150 miles southeast of New Orleans.  The "Thunder Horse PDQ" (Production Drilling facility with crew Quarters) is a joint venture between BP and ExxonMobil -- the largest offshore installation of its kind in the world.  BP has admitted that "a silvery oil sheen measuring 2 feet by 30 feet has been reported on the surface" there, and they have supposedly sent vessels to check it out.  Stay tuned for our check on it soon!

Here are some videos of the two oil slicks we found on the way back from the DH site, and a few of the sperm whales.  Following these are galleries of more of our favorite photos from those Jonathan Henderson of GRN took yesterday.  If you want high-resolution (~8MB) versions of any of these, contact us and tell us the filenames and we'll oblige asap.

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{gallery}20110819-gulf-photos-webres1280/HELIX pick photos 20110819-webres1280{/gallery}



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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Special Articles

How Dilute is Dilute Enough? (from 2011 Dec)

2014 Apr 02 - Bayou Corne #16
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 - 2013

Jul19-Aug21 - Wildlife Surveys
- 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
June 03
- OIL 
May 23-24 - WILDLIFE!
Tue Apr 02
Sat Mar 16
Wed Mar 13 - Bayou Perot explosion
Fri Mar 08 - OIL
Sun Feb 17 - Coal&Oil
Sun Jan 27 - OIL
Sun Jan 20 - OIL
Fri Jan 04 - OIL






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

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.

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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