Archive for the ‘Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Research’ Category
Some photos from day 1. Very happy to be back on these beautiful beaches. Thank you to the Haverford College KINSC for funding this trip.
We are super excited to be in the Gulf! I took tons of pictures and here’s a glimpse at how our first day collecting sand patty samples went:
Action-packed and exciting Day 1! More photos coming soon!
Carolyn asked this question as we walked onto our fourth beach to collect another set of sand patty samples. Personally I think the sand was happy.
Yes sand can be happy. Don’t mock it!
And it had hundreds of thousands of reasons to be happy. Here’s a few off the top of my head.
-it was welcoming Rachel Shelby Carolyn and I to the gulf for our first ever sampling trip.
-The sand was overjoyed to see Helen White back for another round of tar ball collection.
-maybe it was welcoming the WHOI crew who are on their own field work expedition, visiting sites with us.
-maybe the beaches were proud of us for collecting samples from a record breaking 5 beaches on our first day.
-Or maybe the beaches just appreciated that our sampling work was removing sand patties–literally balls of sand and weathered oil that wash up with the surf, polluting beaches while offering physical evidence of the continued repercussions of the Deepwater Horizon spill three years later.
Any one of these would be sufficient to make me squeak. Maybe the sand was just as excited as we are to be here.
Or…maybe the sand was just so fine and hot that it was squeaking against itself as our feet applied pressure, as Helen said.
I still say the sand was happy but if you want to trust a PhD and your common sense over me, that’s your choice.
Expect a lot of updates tonight!
A “quick” edit:
So let me explain exactly where we are and what we are doing. The white lab has undertaken yet another expedition to the Gulf of Mexico to collect sand patties, the residue of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill from a few years back. The team landed in Pensacola Florida and journeyed westward from there; the final destination is New Orleans and the team will take samples from an array of beaches along the way. Some beaches are ports and jetties while others are tourist traps and some are national parks on barrier islands. Leading the team is veteran explorer and patty identifier Helen White. Accompanying her is a rookie team of rising juniors (we have to earn our names) and postdoc Rachel Sinister. With determination and luck they will attempt to retrieve samples while combating sunburn, Mississippi drivers, and southern cuisine (so much butter). Next time: what goes into sampling and our names!
Monday June 24, 2013
Greetings from the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. We arrived at our first site, Station 3, midday yesterday and immediately began collecting. First up, we dropped a Z-shaped trap to collect large animal specimen from the deep-sea (depth ~1100 m). We plan to pick this trap up later tonight (after wrapping up our work at Station 1), and will find out then if we picked up any monsters from the deep.
After the trap was dropped, we deployed our 24-cannister CTD (a conductivity, temperature, and depth) sensor, which took measurements at every 100 m.
Then onto the box cores!
Box cores collect a large square portion of sediment. A group from LSU, led by Bob Carney, was sieving through these samples in hopes of finding animals, such as tube worms, sea cucumbers, and small arthropods.
What was really exciting about these box cores is that it gave us a snapshot of the surface of the seafloor.
See? It’s not just mud and oil down there!
And last, but definitely not least, the multi-core sampler, shown below.
This is the main event and why Shelby and I are here. The multicore sampler is deployed into the sediment and collects one continuous core of sediment roughly 40-50 cm deep, including water (and any critters) just above the seafloor.
One of the greatest parts of seeing these cores come up (other than seeing a giant piece of equipment deployed to the seafloor and retrieved with cores from 1100 meters below the surface) was the visual separation of the oxic and anoxic layers. The oxic one seen on top is a thin, red-brown silty layer, whereas the anoxic layer is the blue-gray bottom layer, which has a clay-like consistency. The newer layer is found ontop, but even so, sediment settles very slowly. We are most interested in the top few centimeters of sediment, for it will give a snapshot of sediment-forming activity in the Gulf over the past few years. For our core, we sliced it using aluminum sheets, packaged the sediment into glass jars, and froze them onboard for further examination.
In the early morning (around 4am), we arrived at Station 2, but both of us were asleep during that stop (although we did wake up in time to package our own core).
Shortly after that, we were making way to Station 1, home of the Macondo Well. This site is where the wellhead blew up a few years back, and the site of interest for our research.
Sarah and Shelby
Ahoy ye land lubbers!
Greetings from Cocodrie, Louisiana, where Shelby and I are docked onboard the mighty R/V Pelican. We set sail tonight at 0:00, bound for site 3 of 6 (yes, things are already getting out of order!) on our six day cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. The goal? To collect deep-sea sediment cores from six different sites via a multi-core sediment sampler. Besides this muddy work, we will also be assisting in the collection of water samples for stable carbon isotope for Brad Rosenheim’s group, collecting box core and gravity core samples (a further discussion of these cores is to come…), all while not getting seasick on a 12-12 shift!
So far, though, it’s been pretty nice.
We’ve settled into our quarters, acquainted ourselves with the crew, and are getting ready to set sail in the next hour and change.
More updates to come….
Sarah and Shelby!
Sarah Harrison ’13 and Shelby Lyons ’15 are currently at sea, participating in a research cruise with the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative funded group CARTHE on the R/V Pelican in the Gulf of Mexico. They did manage to send me these photos before they set sail upon the seas of patchy internet. Check back for posts when their internet returns.
Even though I am stuck on land, I am still able to explore the murky depths from my office by following two amazing live feeds from current research cruises here and here. Deep sea TV doesn’t get much better than this.
A few weeks ago I was interviewed for the Chemical Heritage Foundation Distillations Podcast. I spoke about the current state of the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. You can listen here.
In December 2010 Katie Sheline ’13 and I were at sea in the Gulf of Mexico examining the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster oil spill on the seafloor (see earlier posts). When we stepped onboard ship, Katie became very excited and I wasn’t sure why. The smell of simple green? The autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry? The deep submergence vehicle Alvin? The endless delicious food from the Galley? The famous scientists? No, none of these. Even though all of these at some point would provide many exciting moments for us during the cruise, there was a huge grin on Katie’s face for a different reason. Onboard ship accompanying us on our expedition was as Katie put it, “The guy from shark week!” This guy, was Mike DeGruy, filmmaker, underwater adventurer, ocean crusader and as we learned throughout the cruise, amazingly friendly, knowledgeable and all round wonderful human. Sadly, Mike is no longer with us. This is a huge loss for all who knew him and I send my thoughts and condolences to his family. Being at sea with Mike for 10 days, was an incredible experience. I have loved the oceans for as long as I can remember, but his passion for the oceans was infectious and inspiring. I am fortunate to have met Mike. We are all fortunate that he has left us with such beautiful images from the murky depths. You can see more here and hear Mike talk here.