The last few days have been a whirlwind for the Latitude crew. Here’s the latest from Will Race on the ongoing experiment to measure the oil plume near the Deepwater Horizon:
Morning came fast on Monday. By 6:30 am the entire crew was on deck ready to deploy the first mooring. But instead of a beautiful sunrise, we were greeted by an unnerving thunder and lighting show.
Eight was the lucky number: The eight man crew successfully deployed eight moorings. The complete process, from the preparation of anchors and lines, to deploying the anchor, marking the line, and clipping on test strips went smoothly and efficiently.
The weather calmed down after the morning storm and was key to the efficiency of the day. For the first time during this leg of the trip, the Oceana team finally had the pleasure of setting the last mooring of the day to a breathtaking sunset.
On Friday the Latitude set off on the next leg of the journey: measuring the underwater oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico. Here’s our on-board dispatcher for this leg, Will Race, on the very wet start to the experiment:
On Friday, the crew held a strategy meeting to discuss the next seven days and what’s in store. Pacific Science Director Dr. Jeff Short explained his science experiment: The basic approach for evaluating the subsurface oil plumes will be the deployment of an array of moorings with sensor strips every 100 meters.
Moorings will be deployed in three main areas: 12 within 5 km of the wellhead, 12 in a rectangular array extending up to 90 km to the northeast of the wellhead, and 12 in another rectangular array extending up to 90 km southwest of the wellhead.
With everyone in agreement, it was time to go. Due to the drastically shallow shore line, the Mississippi Port Authorities require a local captain come aboard to navigate boats through the shallows, until they are offshore. An additional treat was when pelicans and various other marine birds decided to escort us out to sea.
Once out at sea, the Oceana team continued to assemble gear for the next day’s first mooring drop. We traveled nearly 10 hours to the first drop site.
While Oceana’s senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor gets a much-deserved break on land, Pacific administrative assistant Will Race will be sending us updates from the boat for the next few weeks. Here’s Will's first post:
Wednesday brought heat, humidity and eight new Oceana staff members, who will take part in a two-week oil plume experiment. Alongside Vice President of Oceana Europe, Xavier Pastor, the experiment will be led by Pacific Director, Susan Murray and Pacific Science Director, Dr. Jeff Short. The team will head out Friday to begin the study.
The Oceana Latitude also had to say goodbye to ROV operator Matthias Gorny and Oceana Pacific office staff Cayleigh Allen. The two embarked on a three day journey to Monterey, California, where they will participate in the Oceana Pacific California Current expedition and use the ROV to document important ecological areas of Monterey Bay.
Today Oceana and NRDC, in collaboration with Mote Marine Laboratory, are launching an oil-detecting underwater robot off the Florida Keys as a first line of defense against underwater oil plumes from the Gulf oil spill.
For 25 to 30 days, the robot, a.k.a.Waldo, will travel undersea in the water column, an area that satellite imagery cannot access, gathering data every few seconds and transmitting the information to researchers via satellite every three hours.
If oil is detected, Mote Marine Laboratory will provide the local government with this information so that emergency resources and response plans can be activated to help protect the Keys’ important ecological resources.
You can check out Waldo’s location and data throughout his expedition at Rutgers University’s web site.