Today we finished logging our samples, packed them up and sent them on their way back to Haverford. We were fortunate enough to have a little time left to play tourists in New Orleans before catching the plane home. Here are some photos from our wanderings.
Archive for June, 2012
We worked hard, but we also found time for some fun. Thanks to the KINSC for supporting this trip!
Ice Cube’s song. I think we all could have used some frozen water many times today.
Today we went to the southern end of Louisiana to harvest all the oil we could find. We started in Port Fourchon and were mildly successful. We made our way over to Elmer’s Island and found a ton of tar balls. We ended our day in Grand Isle. There were found a few tar balls but we were really there for the rock scrapings. We spent hours baking on rock jetties scraping oil off blistering rocks. Good times!
We ended our dy in New Orleans. After a dinner of classic Gumbo we all plan on just passing out…
Today is somewhat of a blur; waking up early and going to bed late, with lots of time in the sun in between.
So, to sum up the day, here are the top ten highlights, in no particular order:
1) Finding a GIANT oil scarping that Patrick scarped while lying under a rock on the jetty
2) Racking up samples at all three sites visited today
3) Packing the Pelican case and finding we had collected more than 80 eclectic samples
4) The ease with which we spotted tar balls today
5) The treasure trove of garbage that we found at Port Fouchon
6) Threat of a citation at our first sampling site of the day
7) Going swimming in very lukewarm Mississippi water
8) Seeing dolphins and lots of awesome sea birds
9) Woman in supermarket on Grand Isle who called everyone baby
10) Our walk along Bourbon Street in New Orleans and the events that transpired
These may seem cryptic, and will most likely remain that way. But hey, there’s gotta be some suspense to keep people reading about our trip!
It’s too early to summarize the trip and honestly, we are all a little too tired to blog. We have spent some long days filled with sun, sea, sand, sampling, and scrambling. We are happy to be headed home, but appreciative of our time spent here in the southern states with the tar balls. It was an interesting trip and Pat and Liz did an amazing job. They are excellent field partners and I am happy to be working with them. Today they took a well deserved 5 min break to rest from the hot rocks and oil scrapings. Here is how they spent their time.
Today, we learned several things:
1) In the life of a beach, 2-weeks is a long time. All of the beaches we are returning to for the second time look very different. Mainly due to current and past weather conditions, but also tidal variance.
2) Tar balls are not everywhere. We looked along stretches of beaches in Pascagoula, Biloxi and Pass Christian and found none.
3) Waveland is maybe my favorite site that we visit, even though it is kind of a tough site in that we are scraping tiny pieces of oil from rocks.
4) The Hits radio station plays the same 10-songs over and over. We now know all of the words to “call me maybe”. Impressive.
5) Duct tape = essential (I think we knew that already).
And we still have the following questions:
6) What role do/did the barrier islands play in keeping the oil away from the mainland?
7) Are the mud balls we found made by the same process as the tar balls?
8 ) What exactly is beach beautification and how is it performed along the Gulf coast?
9) What’s next for Gulfport, MS? Looks like buildings are going up fast!
10) Why is the hotel pool closed after midnight?
We got a 7am start on the day so that we could be on the road and sampling by 8:30-9am. Having feasted on the hotel breakfast (Pat was brave enough to try the fried chicken and gravy as his early morning meal) we set out full of anticipation to visit some new sites, namely Pascagoula and Biloxi. We were in for a little disappointment when we didn’t find anything at either site, but as scientists we know that negative data is still useful data! So although the morning wasn’t as fruitful as we might have hoped, we do have something to say for it.
We spent the afternoon on Ship Island, 11 miles out from Gulfport, MS. On the ferry ride over I saw some dolphins and during our time on the island we were followed around from some funny, squashed-looking birds with red beaks, that emitted a really funny bird call when we got too close. They kind of looked like the bird equivalent of a clown. But really cute. Ship island held other secrets, like a mysterious, washed-up dish drying rack, giant driftwood tree trunks, and lots of ghost crab holes. Our stay on the island was short, but very productive and we all left happy.
After Ship Island we stopped for some lunch, which consisted of sandwiches, Zapp’s chips (between the three of us we tried Voodoo flavor, Sour cream and Creole Onion flavor and Tomato/Tobasco flavor) and free giant chocolate chip cookies because the lone girl working the shop was overwhelmed by orders and took a little extra time (negligible really but she wanted to keep her customers happy) getting our sandwiches to us.
We left the cafe with a good sugar buzz and headed to Waveland, MS to do some rock scraping of oil residues. This was hard work, trying to figure out a comfortable position to squat in the rocks and the easiest way to scrape up crusty oil without having it all fall on the ground and see your efforts disappear before your eyes. But again, we left successful and closed the night with some Japanese food and Voodoo radio!
Pictures to come, and don’t worry, we’re applying lots of sunscreen. It keeps the sunburn at bay, although a little pink sneakily creeps up every now and then.
The Whispers 1980 single has nothing to do with the fact that it’s a featured song in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and everything to do with how hard and fruitful today was, regardless of our moments of seeming failure.
Today we started in Pascagoula, Mississippi, backtracking from Gulfport. There we found a few tar patties and went on our merry way, working our way west stopping along the beaches in Biloxi with no luck for the rest of the morning. Never ones to let nature and chance get in the way of science, we took a quick 11 mile boat trip over to Ship Island where we wrestled some lovely hunks oil from the surf and made it back just in time to get some free cookies with our lunch!
Next up we took a few stops along Long Beach and Pass Christian, again drawing blanks. However, we made a stop in Waveland and were soon scraping oil of rocks like it was going out of style. (For all those concerned, oil scrapings will not be going out of style, but don’t take the white ones after labor day, they are probably bird poop anyway)
We stopped at a lovely Japanese restaurant complete with a gaudy garden and awkward bamboo and panda dioramas for dinner and settled in Houma for the night. Tomorrow we will be getting down and dirty along the beaches of the deep bayou. Who knows, we may take a wrong turn and never come back. Pictures are on their way!
The appropriateness of U2′s leading track from their 1984 album is twofold: 1) we are in the south and it’s good to be back, and 2) the album’s name is The Unforgettable Fire and it’s hot out.
To abbreviate, our day began with the sky looking like this:
And ended like this…
In short today was a day to break records, find oil, rely on caffeine and not sleep to fuel us, and look awesome while doing it.
We arrived in Florida at 11:00 a.m. and we were on the beach collecting by noon. We went south and east this time to collect some samples at Pensacola beach – a place we knew nothing about. The oil gods were with us as we made our way along the beach collecting, and upon returning we found a small mountain of Macondo oil just sitting in the road (not even joking).
Next up we headed to old territory. The beaches of Perdido and Gulf Shores were like old friends welcoming us back after a long absence. We quickly found what we were looking for and went on our way, but not before I got a spectacular sunburn that goes splendidly with my Haverford bucket hat.
We took a ferry across the bay to Dauphin Island – again familiar sands. This time however, we explored the ocean side of the island as well as the bay side. Previously we had just sampled from the bay side. We found some great samples and I got to splash around a sand bar at the same time. Who says science isn’t fun? We finally headed in, and after a dinner of quesadillas and a few gallons of water, were were safely ensconced in our beds, ready to face a new day.
Don’t forget to say a few prayers and dance to Ilyap’a, the Incan god of rain. Just because Debby looks okay now does not mean we should take any chances.
Whoo! After an early morning wake-up (there’s nothing like an alarm going off at 4:15 am), a yawn-filled trip to the airport, a layover in Charlotte and a snooze on the flight to Pensacola, we arrived in Florida! And boy, were we revved up to go. We got some quick sustenance at Panera Bread and picked up necessary supplies (water, granola bars, fruit and the like) at Publix, the local supermarket, before heading off to Pensacola beach, our first stop.
It looked like we were entering an amusement park as we crossed the bridge onto Pensacola Beach, and by the end of our sampling an my whirlwind initiation into the art of tar-ball sampling, it kind of felt like we’d been on an amusement ride. Helen found a tar bar embedded in a shell as we walked onto the beach, and Pat and I managed to hold our own with some interesting composite samples from the tide line and mid-beach area. But the fun started when we walked off the beach (same place we got on) and found… hundreds of tar balls! And also the remnants of a possible sediment core. Hmm. We kind of overloaded on composite samples and made sure to stow away the core (which we spent some time dissecting tonight), all excited for the great start to the day. What a way to be initiated into the ways of tar bars!
The day continued with stops at Perdido Key, FL, Gulf Shores, AL and Dauphin Island, AL. Four sites in one day is ambitious, but we did good. We were all efficient, Pat instructed us as to what kind of samples he was most interested in and we stuck to our orders. We found really interesting samples on every beach we visited and since we made a couple of adjustments and changes to sampling sites compared to the trip that Pat and Helen took two weeks ago, we have some interesting samples to compare and contrast between sites and sampling dates.
We ended the sampling day walking around Dauphin Island (still looking for samples) and commenting on the herons, the flying (or maybe just flopping?) fish and the numerous sea birds calling out to us. Dinner and Ole Maria’s Mexican Restaurant tided us over (and almost knocked me into a major food coma) till we arrived, weary but content, at our hotel for the night. And just to stay perky (because a 4:15 wake-up and a time difference that causes the southern states to be an hour earlier than PA is not enough to wipe you out at the end of the day) we catalogues all our samples, entered the data and comments into a spreadsheet and then said our goodnights before retreating to our individual blog posts.
All in all, a super exciting day. And we’ll find out tomorrow what the tide brought in to Mississippi!