The Oceana crew set off for their first dive operation at the Western Dry Rocks off the coast of Key West today at 9 a.m.
The diving conditions at this first location were far from ideal. Recent storms stirred up the water with sand and mud, leaving the divers with limited visibility of only three to nine feet. Support diver Soledad Esnaola described it as “like diving in milk.” The site was approximately 50 feet deep and a majority of the coral was covered in sediment. Despite the poor conditions, underwater videographer Enrique Talledo spotted a six foot green moray eel.
The Oceana Latitude is now anchored off the coast of Key West for the first leg of its two-month expedition.
On our long voyage from Fort Lauderdale, we spotted a lot of sargassum floating on the surface of the water. It’s sad to imagine that this floating seaweed is at risk in the Gulf of Mexico because it provides essential habitat for marine animals in the open ocean.
I’m happy to report, along with the rest of the crew, that the Oceana Latitude has officially set sail for the Gulf of Mexico.
First stop…Key West! About 18 hours away for a vessel that cruises at approximately 11 mph.
Oceana will work with its ROV and specialized divers to document bottom habitat and other marine life that could be in danger if oil is captured by sea currents and transported towards southern Florida or if another oil spill occurs in this area in the future.
Good news. The satellite internet and phone system is back up and running.
The crew took advantage of the day by spending time testing a majority of the equipment onboard the Oceana Latitude.
Matthias Gorny from Oceana’s Chilean office, launched the ROV from the vessel to assess its standard operating procedures, including ensuring that its seals were working properly. The Longitude, a 42 foot boat adapted for Oceana’s research needs, was also deployed for at sea testing.
I’m happy to report that everything worked as planned.
It’s another warm day on the intracoastal of Fort Lauderdale. But great news! The ROV from Oceana’s Chilean office has finally arrived. After it was loaded on the vessel, the crew spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking several boxes of SCUBAPRO diving gear and making final scheduling arrangements for later in the expedition.
However, we also received some bad news this morning. It appears that the satellite internet and phone system is down. Luckily, the system provider is working around the clock to ensure that Oceana sets sail as soon as possible.
Spanish model Almudena Fernandez has decided to join us onboard for the first week of the expedition as we travel down and around the Florida Keys. Almudena is a huge Oceana supporter and spent the day recording PSAs about the expedition.
Oceana staff also became familiar with the onboard crane today, which will be used to load and unload the smaller boats while at sea. This process can only happen when the water is extremely calm. If the boats begin to rock, it creates a very dangerous situation for everyone involved.
This morning the Oceana Latitude was moved from Dania Beach to Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale. As the vessel cruised down the intracoastal, fisherman and other boaters were quick to say hello after learning about our expedition in the news.
I arrived at the Oceana Latitude early this morning to prepare for a full day of media interviews onboard the Oceana Latitude. Oceana’s expedition leaders, Xavier Pastor and Dr. Michael Hirshfield were interviewed by David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Tom Brown of Thomson Reuters, Curtis Morgan of The Miami Herald and Jeff Burnside of NBC Miami. This exposure was great for Oceana in south Florida and for the expedition worldwide.
Oceana Latitude is just about to set sail to the Gulf of Mexico waters. We’re afraid that these waters will be very cloudy, dirty and thick because of the oil; we’ll try in fact to analyze them to determine the impact this toxic fluid is causing on the rich biodiversity of the area.
But that will happen from Sunday on. Today we celebrated the arrival to Fort Lauderdale of a whole crew of Oceana International that traveled thousands of miles from Chile, Spain and other areas of the U.S. to gather up onboard the Oceana Latitude.
Well we are all set – the crew is ready to go, we have all the equipment we need and we are counting down the days until we set sail on August 8.
We’ll be sailing the chartered Oceana Latitude, a 170 foot vessel capable of sailing in both shallow and deep waters, and adapted to serve as a diving platform – but our scientists have already started their preliminary work analysing the magnitude of the spill and its effects on marine life and habitats.