The Beacon

Day 25 + 26: Jellyfish and Canyons

Oceana's Cheryl Eldemar removes test strips from the line. © Oceana/Carlos Suarez

The crew aboard the Latitude has successfully completed the experiment to map the oil plume around the Deepwater Horizon. They successfully deployed 16 buoys up to 6,000 feet deep, and were able to retrieve 90% of the buoys and hundreds of sensors.

Oceana’s Pacific science director Dr. Jeff Short will now analyze the presence and concentration of toxic hydrocarbons surrounding BP's Deepwater Horizon wellhead, which noone has yet done.

Here’s Will’s final report, and stay tuned for the next leg of the expedition, in which the crew will use a deep-sea ROV to explore important habitat areas near the Deepwater Horizon.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another hard working day notched into the belt. After today the Oceana team can check three more moorings off the list. Today started in similar fashion as the last few days: wake up early, eat breakfast and hoist a mooring. What separated today from the others were jellyfish and canyons.

To this point the Oceana team has been relatively lucky in terms of accidents and painful encounters. Yet today after an “easy” first set, we went for another, and boy did we get a surprise. Everything was normal at first, and then it happened. Jellyfish started floating past the line. Minutes later, as the crew pulled the line through the winch, jelly slime began to pass through hands. Unnoticed at first, soon people began to squirm. 

Jellyfish sting their prey using nematocysts which are their stinging structures located in specialized cells called cindocytes. In our case the stinging structures of the jellies wrapped around the long line and in some cases stuck. As the crew pulled in the line the cindocytes transferred from the rope to the gloves of the team. Minutes later the fun ensued. When nematocysts pierce the skin they inject venom. The venom is very uncomfortable, and sometimes requires medical assistance. Luckily for us no such medical assistance was needed, but we all immediately washed off and changed clothes after the set.

The second adventure of the day started when we arrived to pick up the third mooring of the day. The buoy was being reeled in and suddenly it sank. Tension consumed the line attached to the boat. The crew struggled to secure the line. The struggle was to no avail as moments later the line snapped and we lost the set. The mooring was placed in an area near an underwater canyon, and many of the crew think that by roping the buoy in we caused the anchor to go past the tipping point and fall into the canyon. 

Fortunately, on our last mooring of the day, there were no canyons or jellyfish and we successfully retrieved our test strips, and were treated to another beautiful sunset.

Tomorrow is the last working day of the trip. Two more moorings and a CDT scan are on the schedule.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Today marks the final day of the mapping the plume leg of the expedition. This morning the Oceana team pulled up the last two moorings of the trip and cast one last CTD scan.

Test strips will be sent back to a lab and will be analyzed. Initially, the strips will be placed under a black light. If the strips glow under the black light they have been exposed to hydrocarbons. Further testing will be done in the lab to determine levels of exposure.

To show his appreciation, Poseidon himself bestowed a gift on the Oceana crew. A fleet of dolphins escorted the Oceana Latitude for hours back to the port. A sign, perhaps, that life is returning to normal despite the horrible tragedy that took place months ago.

Now the journey takes us back to Gulfport, MS, where the ship will reload supplies, say farewells to departing crew and welcome new members to the expedition.

 

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