Under typical weather conditions, it should have taken the divers only an hour and a half to reach the 3-5’s area on the 42-foot Oceana Longitude this morning. But because of rough seas, the divers decided to divert from the course when they realized that it would take nearly twice as long to reach the location. Instead, they visited Marquardt’s Barge, approximately 10 miles from where the Oceana Latitude is anchored in Port St. Joe.
On Wednesday morning the Oceana Latitude pulled up anchor and started to make its way to Port St. Joe, Fla.
As we left Mobile Bay, we passed Dauphin Island, home of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. Oceana has participated in this conservation minded fishing tournament in the past, which typically attracts more than 100,000 spectators and more than 3,200 fishermen. Unfortunately, like so many other summer activities in this part of the Gulf, the Rodeo was canceled this year after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
In an unexpected turn of events, the generator used to power Oceana’s ROV was hit by a large rogue wave Monday afternoon near the edge of DeSoto Canyon. While the ROV technicians spent the rest of the day trying to repair the damaged system, the Oceana Latitude began to adjust course and head towards Mobile in hopes of getting replacement parts.
After making several transects of the Alabama Alps today and comparing Oceana’s observations with those from previous scientific investigations, we believe to have a fairly good snapshot of the area.
Based on what we saw from the ROV footage and CTD scans, there are no obvious signs that this area was harmed by the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Here’s Oceana conducting a CTD scan: http://www.vimeo.com/14927235
The heat and humidity did not divert the Oceana crew from the important task at hand today.
After running a few more quick tests on the Spanish ROV, the crew sent it down for its first operation. Positioned near the “Alabama Alps,” the ROV was lowered nearly 250 feet to the ocean floor.
As strong underwater currents tried to move the Oceana Latitude from the operation site, expedition leader Xavier Pastor worked closely with the ships’ crew to ensure that all the necessary measures were taken to keep us on course.
From the surface of the water, it’s hard to imagine that a small underwater mountain range with pinnacles reaching as high as 1000 meters above the seafloor is below us.
With the help of an echo sounder and Olex seafloor mapping software, Oceana’s experts were able to create a visual image of a section of “The Pinnacles” off the coast of Alabama, which some people call the “The Alabama Alps.”
As Will and the rest of our Alaskan colleagues headed back to Juneau this week, a new crew was making its way to Gulfport to board the Oceana Latitude.
The next mission: Documenting seafloor habitat areas along the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico that may have been harmed by underwater oil.
During this leg, Spanish ROV operators Jose Manuel Saez and Josep Fleta will use a device to reach depths of approximately 1,500 feet and film in high-definition. Stay tuned for updates about what we are finding!
Author: Maribel López Carmona Date: September 8, 2010
We get up early because there is still much to be done. The days in port are all alike, a lot of planning, preparing and logistics. But today, the divers take advantage to dive on one of the hundreds of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Specifically, the platform is roughly 30 miles from our current location, the Port of Gulfport in Mississippi. This is roughly 2 and a half hours each way.
Author: Maribel López Carmona Date: September 7, 2010
Gulfport: the Latitude looks like an anthill. There’s a crane working on deck unloading part of the material that was used during the last phase of the campaign; anchors, compressors, chains, ropes, buoys…
Part of the Oceana crew is also packing their bags because we need to make room for the new occupants that will be arriving shortly.
The frenetic activity is only affected by the heat. It’s so hot and humid that the workers have to stop and drink water to avoid dehydration.
Oceana Latitude – Today marks the final day of the mapping the plume 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.