Towering flames illuminated the pre-dawn darkness, casting shadows on the ship Ocean Intervention III as it floated over the sunken remains of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The resonant hum of helicopters fused with the roar of fires on either side of the ship, and Chris Reddy could feel the heat on his face.
The night of June 21, 2010, Reddy and colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution were whisked off their research vessel Endeavor to collect samples directly from the blown Macondo well, which had been spewing oil and natural gas into the Gulf of Mexico for two months. They had 12 hours to do something that had never been done before: Use a robot arm to stick a special bottle directly into the hot hydrocarbons. Now, a year later, their analysis explains just what came out of the well, and sheds more light on what happened to it.
Researchers on board a ship in the Gulf of Mexico have found a layer of oil at least two inches thick, nestled in the depths a mile below the surface, that they believe came from the blown-out BP well.
Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, set sail August 21 on the research vessel Oceanus and has been posting blog updates throughout the mission. Over the weekend, she wrote that her team found a layer of oil in a valley on the seafloor, about 18 miles from the wellhead. It is two inches thick in some spots, and it rests on top of recently dead sea creatures like shrimp and tubeworms.
Huge C-130 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force Reserve have joined the fight against the Deepwater Horizon oil slick, which now threatens to ravage the local ecosystems and fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.