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. We want to see how things have changed since the flow increased between the cutting of the riser pipe and the attempt to cap it.
Oddly enough, several folks asked about the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that are being used out here. Right now, most of the ROV in use out here belong to BP; most of them are working around the leak site. Another ROV, the MBARI “Gulper”, that is working off the NOAA ship Gordon Gunther. There are three sea gliders working in the area right now, two Navy gliders and one iROBOT glider. The data from the iROBOT glider is available here. The navy glider data is available here. When working close to the leak site day before yesterday, we had some spectacular views of the Discovery Explorer drill ship (left photo). The drill ship, the Top Kill rig (middle of photo), and the Deep Driller 2 (DD2) rig (right of image) are pretty close together (right image). Tonight the drill ship is burning off methane (in a huge flare) as they attempt to cap the cut off riser. I wish my camera took better night photos because this is quite a site, particularly with a beautiful orange half moon seemingly floating aside the drill ship.
We saw a lot more oil on the surface today….it’s just everywhere out here. I hope they are able to cap the well tonight. In the meantime, we are running a line of stations that extends from 1 to 20 miles from the leaking wellhead to see how far out we can track this feature. Tomorrow, we’ll be doing more sampling at stations throughout the general area of this plume. For those who are interested, the approximate dimensions of the area where we’ve found plumes is 14 nautical miles long and around 3 nautical miles long.