Sea Floor Near Blown-Out Well
Researchers Sample Sea Life At Site Of Oil Spill
Scientists in the Gulf of Mexico are taking daily dives in a submarine to get a close look at exotic ecosystems that could be at risk because of the BP oil spill. They will be the first researchers to see the sea floor in person near the blown-out oil well.
The research boat, Atlantis, is currently about 95 miles off the coast of Louisiana in an area called Green Canyon, says NPR’s Richard Harris. It’s still a good distance from the site of the BP oil spill so scientists haven’t seen any damage yet, but the expedition has already catalogued a vast array of undersea life, he says.
“Scientists on board have found weird and fascinating things like lakes of brine and little mud volcanoes and all sorts of wild and interesting animals,” he says.
The expedition was planned in 2007, long before the oil spill, to study the deep-sea ecosystems. But the chief scientist on the mission, Samantha Joye from the University of Georgia, is now focused on studying effects of the spill. She found oil residue on the sea floor in a large area around BP’s well on previous expeditions.
“We’re diving in an area where [Joye] took core samples before, so there are these big deposits of fluffy, oily material a few inches deep on the sea floor, and the life below that in the mud had been killed,” Harris says.
Joye says she expects to see more mud on the sea floor on this expedition. She will collect samples from the sea floor using a research submarine called Alvin.
Her observations about oil on the sea floor have been fairly controversial, Harris says. The new samples may help put some of that controversy to rest.