2011 Dec 20 - OWOC Gulf Flight - Oil and Pelicans!

2011 December 20, Tuesday
Gulf of Mexico

Yesterday morning, Transocean reported a 13,000-gallon (310-barrel) spill from their Deepwater Nautilus semi-submersible, which is currently drilling for Shell Oil in 7,200' of water about 26 miles southeast of the sunken Deepwater Horizon, in the Appomattox area. The spill was reported to be oil mixed with drilling fluid from a leak in a booster line.  A "light surface sheen" was verified by the U.S. Coast Guard during an overflight.  We arrived there a little after 11am and found two vessels: Akira Chouest and Emily Candies. The seas were too rough and visibility too poor to positively identify any surface sheen. But we can say with confidence that the many sightings of oil in the Macondo area on our last flight, December 09, and on this flight, are not associated with this drilling work.  

Enroute there, and on our way back from there, we found more than we expected we would see with the poor atmospheric visibility and rough seas.  Yesterday and today were the first days of decent flying weather for visual surveys in ten days, but visibility was still borderline due to low clouds and mist.  Seas were 4 to 6 ft too, not great for spotting oil or marine life. But in winter here in the Gulf it's futile to wait for perfect blue-sky days, so we were up and early today.
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.  




















(More maps of our flight paths, of varying resolution and depicting oil sightings by red circles with the most recent dates of the sightings -- e.g., 1220 for today, are given just above our Flight Log, at the bottom of this article.)

Despite very modest camera equipment and the poor atmospheric conditions, we saw a surprising amount. Our cameras saw somewhat less, but you'll get the general idea. Referring to our flight log appended below, we first saw a small patch of rainbow sheen north of Black Bay, about 10m (meters) by 30m in area (gps#1028 and 1-NRC in the flight log below, our first NRC incident report). Perhaps it is caused by a leaking pipeline or an absent vessel, we cannot tell from the air. As we approached the tip of the Delta, we flew over what looks like lots of tarballs (gps#130 below); we observed this on our last flight Dec 9 also. Today it seemed to us more likely to be vegetation (see photo below).  




















The next short but clear line of oil was among numerous rigs east and slightly north of the tip of the Delta (gps#131, 2-NRC), about 15m by 30m in area.  It did not appear related to any particular rig; we wondered if it might be a leaking pipeline.  We did not delay here to try to optimize lighting, and unfortunately our modest equipment did not pick it up well photographically, but it was significant enough that we reported it to the NRC, along with the other four significant sightings from today.

The third unmistakable and significant sighting of oil was in the Macondo area, about 13 nm southeast of the sunken Deepwater Horizon and about the same distance west of the Deepwater Nautilus (gps#0132, 3-NRC).  We were hurrying to beat some cloud cover and get over to the Deepwater Nautilus, so we didn't take great video of this line nor follow it all of its way, but you'll get the idea.  The same sort of lines we've been seeing for months -- narrow, maybe no wider than 10 m in most places, but at least 1 nm long.  This was very near sightings from our last flights on December 9.








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Things seemed quiet at the Deepwater Nautilus, though the visibility was so poor we really couldn't have seen much surface oil had it been there.  Two ships were present, the Akira Chouest and the Emily Candies.  We proceeded southwest from there to somewhat brighter skies, and soon spied what looked to be quite a bit of activity.  Six vessels, approximately near two platforms but not obviously performing work associated with the platforms.  At the Noble Amos Runner platform (whose position today decidedly differs from what we looked up on the internet at rodnreel.com, by the way), there were three vessels nearby:  Joshua Chouest, Dino Chouest, and Touchdown.  Just a few miles southwest was a BP platform we visited last December 9 whose only visible identification is "MC474A") with a helicopter on its pad, and three vessels gathered together a mile or so north of it:  Ocean Intervention III, C Chariot, and Grant Candies.  At the Na Kika platform to the south, all looked quiet and we saw no vessels.

Here are some videos of the Deepwater Nautilus and the other platforms and vessels.  A gallery of photos of the various rigs and vessels is at the bottom of this article, just before the transcription of our Flight Log.

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We headed back homeward at this point, since visibility was getting no better.  To our surprise, we did find more oil on our way northward, at about 13 nm northeast of the sunken Deepwater Horizon (gps#0135, 4-NRC in the flight log below).  We have found oil in this area every time we've flown since August of this year. Here we found a sheet of oil about 1.5 nm long (south-to-north), maybe 20m wide.  The footage we took did not come out well.  Disappointed by the poor visibility conditions, we headed directly homeward -- and then decided to take a very quick detour to see if the chronic leakage at the Taylor Energy site had been stopped yet.

The Taylor Energy site has been a big mess for some time, and we have yet to fly over that vicinity and not see some gnarly looking stuff.  It moves around a bit, and today the most obvious lines, patches, and streamers were in an area almost 5 nm long and aout 3 nm wide (west to east).  Some of the oil is quite weathered, showing itself as the typical wavy reddish-brown streamers, some of it dark and thick, some of it almost foamlike. The streamers themselves stretched 1-2 nm, and there were patches 100m wide. No vessels were working this area today.  

Here are three videos of the Taylor Energy vicinity:

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On our way home, we were treated to the beautiful site of hundreds of white pelicans alluded to above. Gathered closely together in a lovely heart shape, they were one of the prettiest and most refreshing sites we've seen in the Gulf for a while. May they survive and thrive!



Finally, here are photos of the various vessels and platforms noted above and in the Flight Log below.


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OWOC GULF Flight Log - 20111220 Tuesday

Headed first to a Shell exploration site in Appomattox area, Transocean's drilling platform Deepwater Nautilus.
KNEW - (Breton - Deepwater Nautilus - Taylor) - KNEW
~4.2 hrs, ETD KNEW 0930 CST = 1530Z, ADIZ at 1015 = 1615Z,

Return KNEW  1330 CST = 1930Z.
Numbers 0128-0140 below 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).

1-NRC (NRC Incident Report #998651):  0128 - 1011 CST, N29 43.037 W89 31.240.
Patch of oil, rainbow sheen, about 10 x 30 m.

0129 - 1016 CST, N29 38.750 W89 23.605.
Neat views of rigs in the mist and low clouds.
Breton Island is barely visible due to high tide and ever-increasing erosion.
Three vessels close together to its southeast.

0130 - 1033 CST, N29 18.886 W89 01.062.
Lots of tarballs (?) floating here.  Maybe vegetation, can't tell.

(0124), N29 14.649 W88 55.609. 
Rig flaring.  Very cloudy and poor visibility, tough to see oil with cameras even when we can see it with our eyes.  Sightings will be only of the very obvious sheens.

2-NRC (NRC Incident Report #998652)0131 - 1040 CST, N29 11.069 W88 52.536.
OIL patch, not large (leaking pipeline?), about 15x30 m.

(0123) - N29 07.828 W88 46.860.
Chevron rig, A55-215, one vessel there.

3-NRC (NRC Incident Report #998653): 0132 - 1111 CST, N28 38.776 W88 10.752.
Line of oil, N-S.  No mistaking despite very poor light and visibility.  About 1 nm long (S-N), narrow ~10m. (Near 0112 - oil sighted 20111209.)

Deepwater Nautilus platform - 1119 CST, N28 38.07 W87 59.02
Two vessels here: Akira Chouest and Emily Candies. Water too rough and visibility too poor to positively identify any sheen.

0133 - 1131 CST, N28 33.483 W88 14.350.
Platform Noble Amos Runner + 3 vessels: Joshua Chouest, Dino Chouest, and Touchdown.

(0116) - 1135 CST, N28 30.702 W88 17.364.
Platform BP-MC474 (with helicopter on it). Flaring.  + 3 vessels: Ocean Intervention III, C Chariot, Grant Candies.

Na Kika platform -- no vessels, looked quiet.

0134 - 1159 CST, N28 40.934 W88 12.193.
Patch of old sargassum.

4-NRC (NRC Incident Report #998654): 0135 - 1205 CST, N28 50.966 W88 10.226.
Sheet of oil, ~1.5 nm long S-N, 20 m wide.  (Near previous waypoints 108, 109 - oil sighted 20111209.)

5-NRC (NRC Incident Report #998655): 0136 - 1246 CST, N28 57.210 W89 04.921.
(Taylor Energy vicinity). Sheen. Line W-E, ~1.5 nm long, 10 m wide (N-S).

(combined with above 5-NRC report):  0137 - 1248 CST, N28 54.672 W89 03.161.
Continued oil sheen.  Some deep reddish-brown weathered lines and patches.
Long lines - 2 nm of many streamers, and some large patches. Rainbow, metallic, and reddish-brown.

0138 - 1319 CST, N29 23.492 W89 24.941.
Beautiful crowd of white pelicans, all standing close together in heart-shaped small piece of land.

0139 - 1322 CST, N29 27.830 W89 30.035.
Tarballs? Or vegetation? Many,floating, dark-colored, about 0.5-1 ft in length.

0140 - 1325 CST, N29 31.366 W89 33.752.
Surface sheen, light, several streamers about 10-15 m long, 1-2 m wide.

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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How Dilute is Dilute Enough? (from 2011 Dec)

2014 Apr 02 - Bayou Corne #16
2013 Nov 24 - Bayou Corne #14
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2012 Aug 13 - Sinkhole in Bayou Corne, LA
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2012 April - Chronicles of the Endeavor
2012 Dec 10 - How Dilute is Dilute Enough?

Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf - 2013

Jul19-Aug21 - Wildlife Surveys
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July 25
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July 23
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July 10
- Gas Well Leak
June 19-20
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Tue Apr 02
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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!

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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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