Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Seafloor
NOAA hunting for missing oil in Gulf of Mexico
Starting Monday, researchers will begin a 9-day search for oil on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the BP Macondo well disaster, and the public will be able to watch daily updates of their work.
The expedition, to be conducted by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, will be documented on the institute’s Dive and Discover Web site. Woods Hole is the largest private nonprofit oceanographic institution in the world, and is located on Cape Cod, Mass. The research will continue through Dec. 14.
Scientists will be investigating the effects that oil released during the massive Deepwater Horizon disaster has had on sea life, as well as the dispersants used to turn the oil into tiny droplets.
The first stop for the Research Vessel Atlantis is expected to be at deepwater coral reefs about seven miles from the Macondo well site. In early November, scientists found oil had damaged numerous corals there.
The expedition will include six dives by the manned submersible Alvin, during which researchers will collect animal and sediment samples.
The unmanned underwater vehicle Sentry will map and photograph areas of the Gulf floor during overnight missions, and its results will be used to plan research stops for the Alvin.
The Sentry was used during a Woods Hole cruise in June to collect samples from a layer of water about 3,000 feet below the surface. Based on the samples, scientists characterized a plume of hydrocarbons at least 22 miles long that was determined to be a residue of the Macondo oil release, the worst in the country’s history.
The scientists also will pick up samples collected by sediment trap devices placed on the Gulf bottom in June. The samples join others collected from similar instruments between September 2009 and June that researchers hope will show how contamination on the bottom has changed over time
Apparently Alabama’s Gulf Coast experts claim that microbes ate all the oil was a bit of an overestimate.