The gulfblog is back. Sorry it took me so long to do this update. The past couple of weeks have been the busiest and most demanding of my career. Everyone in the lab has been working feverishly to complete the analyses of samples collected on the Pelican and Walton Smith cruises. Those data sets are almost complete and I am now working to complete two manuscripts that I hope will be submitted by the end of June. Below I answer some of the questions that came in to the blog over the past two weeks. At the end, I talk about what our next research steps will be.
The plume was hiding. We anticipated that the flow trajectory of the oil and gas discharging from the leaking riser pipe would change after the pipe was cut but it was tough to predict which way the flow would go. We had a day and a half of ops remaining and our goal was to find the plume, revisit several stations to see how they had changed over time, and sample two control sites well away from the plume.
Yesterday and half of today, we were unable to conduct science operations because of a jammed gear in the clutch in one of the engines. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the ship’s crew to repair the problem quickly, we are back in business. We are almost back to the spill site, where we are anxious to re-occupy the four stations nearest to the leaking well. We probably can’t get very close (perhaps within a mile) tonight as BP is trying to cap the cut off riser pipe. Tonight, we’ll get within a mile or so.
Happy Memorial Day. Today we’ve been trying to trace the deepwater plume as close as possible to the leaking wellhead. Finally, after about 14 hours of searching and 5 unsuccessful CTD casts, we closed in on the source of the plume. After a very long day, we finally have this feature well constrained. We found more visible oil in the deepwater today – at different sites from yesterday – which increases our confidence in this finding.