oceana latitude

Day 24: Missing Moorings and Mahi-Mahi

Posted Sat, Sep 4, 2010 by Emily Fisher to gulf of mexico oil spill, mahi-mahi, mapping the oil plume, oceana gulf expedition, oceana latitude, science

The Oceana crew has officially become used to the life aquatic. After a hard day yesterday and having worked on this leg of the journey for a little over a week, our heads hit the pillows hard last night.

We thought we had seen everything, but this morning we awoke to yet another surprise: silence. No waves, no wind and no clouds. The crew began work today under a clear sky – it’s the first time in this part of the expedition that the seas have been favorable.

Our first task was to seek out a mooring. With the given GPS coordinates in hand the crew took to the deck, eyes on all levels of the ship. We scanned the horizon but saw nothing; the first buoy of the day was missing. The story was the same at the second mooring site. Some of the crew suspected foul play and others thought it may have been run over by another ship, but only Poseidon will know for certain.

Continue reading...

The Cleanup Is Far From Over In The Gulf

Posted Fri, Aug 27, 2010 by wrace to gulf oil disaster, oceana gulf expedition, oceana latitude, ship island

This morning a small expedition on the Oceana Longitude including Oceana’s Soledad Scotto, Carlos Suárez, Fernando Loyola and Gorka Leclercq were sent out to Ship Island to look for signs from the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Although there was too much wind to dive, there was a chance to go ashore.

Ship Island is shared name of two barrier islands off the coast of Mississippi. Hurricane Camille tore through the island in 1969 and split the island in two. The island is famed for its rich cultural significance to the Gulf of Mexico. The Island became so important because of its deep-water harbor that served as vital anchorage for ships bearing explorers and colonists.

Upon the team’s arrival to Ship Island they found a cleaning patrol of around 30 or more people. The patrol was sifting and raking tar balls and oil spatter from the white sand beaches which surround the island. A few staff from the oil spill cleanup patrol recommended the Oceana team travel a bit further down the beach to an area that had yet to be cleaned.

After traveling about a half of a mile down the beach the team reached an area of beach dotted in oil spill patties and tar balls. Also found in the oil soaked sand were various shells and other flotsam and jetsam stained black from the oil.

Meanwhile on the Oceana Latitude, Oceana’s Pacific Science Director, Dr. Jeff Short, finished nailing down logistics of the oil plume experiment. Team members gathered the last of the necessary supplies and began experiment assembly. The team assembled over 800 ganion clips and 40 spliced floats.

Tomorrow we set sail for the Deepwater Horizon site to begin testing the waters.

Continue reading...

Previewing The Latitude's Research In Mississippi

Posted Wed, Aug 25, 2010 by suzannah to almudena fernandez, morgan freeman, oceana gulf expedition, oceana latitude, ted danson

Ted Danson, Almudena Fernandez and Morgan Freeman on the Latitude.

Oceana board member Ted Danson, model Almudena Fernandez and Morgan Freeman were on hand to hear the latest research from the Latitude on Tuesday. © Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

Tuesday was a busy day on the Latitude, as the crew docked in Mississippi to share preliminary findings of the first weeks on the water. Here's Dustin's update:

The Oceana Latitude arrived in Gulfport, Miss., late Monday. Over the next few days, equipment for Oceana’s upcoming deepwater oil exploration efforts will be loaded onto the vessel.

On Tuesday, Oceana was joined for a press conference by corporate partner Nautica and celebrity activists, including award-winning actors Ted Danson and Morgan Freeman as well as New York-based Spanish model Almudena Fernandez and San Pedro (Belize) mayor Elsa Paz.

At the press conference, experts provided an update on the first legs of the two-month research expedition and discussed the approaching efforts to map the subsurface oil plume with cutting-edge science and document seafloor habitat areas that may have been harmed by underwater oil with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) capable of reaching depths of more than 3,200 feet and filming in high-definition.

The press conference was covered by several media outlets, including Associated Press, Thomson Reuters, EFE, CBC Radio, Biloxi Sun Herald, Mississippi Press and local ABC affiliate WLOX.

Scientist-in-charge of the expedition Dr. Michael Hirshfield also led two tours to Ship Island on Tuesday. Ship Island, which survived Hurricane’s Camille and Katrina, was devastated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Although this island’s fort was once capable of protecting the local coasts, it was no defense against oil. According to BP contractors, 1,200 pounds of sandy tar balls were removed from the island Tuesday, 1,400 pounds Monday and 1,600 pounds Sunday.

Continue reading...

On The Hunt For Elusive Whale Sharks

Posted Mon, Aug 23, 2010 by suzannah to gulf of mexico expedition, gulf oil disaster, oceana latitude, whale shark

A spotter plane with crew looking for wildlife. © Oceana/Eduardo Sorensen

Emily went up in a spotter plane last weekend to look for whale sharks, while senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor was on the Latitude waiting for word of the sharks' location so the scientists on board could follow them in order to tag the animals. Unfortunately, the sharks proved elusive. Here's Dustin's report:

The whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico spent the weekend hiding from the Oceana Latitude.

The crew spent two days searching for these sharks off the coast of southeastern Louisiana. Our hope was to tag some of them so that we could monitor their movements and contribute to scientists' understanding of the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on their survival.  Whale sharks were observed swimming in surface oil near the gushing wellhead earlier this year.

The two spotter planes did have one sighting, but the four whale sharks dove too quickly for us to track them.

Oceana and the University of Southern Mississippi have not given up and will continue the search Tuesday.

Here’s Oceana marine scientist Elizabeth Wilson: 


It wasn’t until we reached Grand Isle to drop off the shark experts that we saw a school of what appeared to be silky sharks.

During transit, the experts spent time talking with Associated Press reporter Rich Matthews. One thing is clear, no matter what direction you look in the Gulf of Mexico, there are always oil rigs in the landscape.

Continue reading...

Latitude Spies Evidence of Abandoned Oil Wells

Posted Fri, Aug 20, 2010 by suzannah to matthias gorny, oceana gulf expedition, oceana latitude, offshore drilling

black humps on the seafloor

Piles of black sediment indicate hydrocarbons on the Gulf seafloor. Copyright: Oceana

Yesterday, our scientist Matthias Gorny was unsure if he could identify indications of abandoned oil wells on the Gulf floor using the ROV from the Oceana Latitude. But in our dispatch from today, Dustin Cranor has let us know that Matthias has evaluated the ROV footage further - and this time come up with signs of an abandoned well 90 feet underwater. Along an otherwise flat seafloor, Gorny discovered a raised surface approximately three feet high with black sediment excavated by worms, which indicates a presence of hydrocarbons.

Check out this slideshow of images captured by the ROV.


Continue reading...

Another Threat To The Gulf: Bottom Trawling

The ROV is lowered into the gulf.

The ROV is lowered into the Gulf. © Oceana/Soledad Esnaola

The Gulf of Mexico is threatened by more than just offshore drilling. Industrial fishing has destroyed many habitats already, as our team saw yesterday. Here's Dustin's update from the Latitude:

A recent story by the Associated Press revealed that there are more than 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of these wells are believed to still be leaking oil into the Gulf.

Oceana sent its ROV from Chile down (approximately 90 feet to the seafloor) today off the coast of Alabama to investigate an abandoned oil well that began drilling in 1981.

Oceana was unable to find any infrastructure from the abandoned well. However, the ROV did allow us to see the result of using destructive fishing gear in the area. The sea floor at this location was leveled. Trawls appeared to have bulldozed everything in their path, leaving only broken shells and a few remaining fish and sea stars.

Here's Oceana's ROV operator and science director for Chile Matthias Gorny:



Continue reading...

And They’re Off!

I’m happy to report that the Oceana Latitude officially set sail yesterday evening for the Gulf of Mexico out of Fort Lauderdale!

The first stop will be Key West, where the Oceana crew will work with the 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.

Here’s Oceana chief scientist Mike Hirshfield:

Dr. Michael Hirshfield about Oceana Latitude Setting Sail from Oceana on Vimeo.




Continue reading...

Testing Out The Latitude

Testing out the ROV on the Oceana Latitude. Credit: Oceana

The Oceana Latitude is making its final preparations for eight weeks on the water. We got this dispatch from our trusty senior campaigns communications manager, Dustin Cranor:

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.


Click here to see a slideshow of photos from the preparations, including a visit from Spanish model Almudena Fernandez.

Continue reading...

Video Tour of the Oceana Latitude

The crew aboard the Oceana Latitude is just about ready to set sail in the Gulf of Mexico to investigate the long-term impacts of the oil spill. Oceana marine scientist Margot Stiles is on-board making last minute preparations; here she is to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the crew's home away from home for the next two months:


Continue reading...