Samples Off, Water On, Monitoring Continues

Our acoustic monitoring efforts continue. Since the beginning of the static kill operation, we have not been able to work inside 1,500 meters (about 4,900 feet or just under one mile). There is no clear passage through the area with all the ships, and the ‘kill’ operation doesn’t need us driving through the middle of the action.

Most of the ships working in the wellhead region are using dynamic positioning (DP), in which the ship’s propellers and thrusters  hold it in a constant position. In fact, it is a little strange to watch all these ships from outside the circle and realize that none are moving even as the wind and currents move around them. It is like  a village of 20 houses out in the country with very few other people and structures around.

This morning we moved samples from our ship to a supply boat for transport to shore. The water samples collected by the CTD were labeled and stored in a walk-in refrigerator onboard. The hydrocarbon analyses need to be conducted within seven days of collection, so we need to transfer the water samples to a vessel that takes them ashore to a truck that then takes them to a lab for analysis. The supply boat pulled up along-side and offloaded two NOAA Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) sample representatives. These people met with our onboard NRDA rep and data manager and reviewed all the documentation: the sample numbers, locations, and depth. Once everything was in order, the custody of samples changed from our NRDA sample rep to the sample reps on the supply boat. This formal chain of custody is necessary because data from the samples could eventually end up in a court of law. As the supply boat pulled away, I looked at my watch – it only took us 1.5 hours to transfer four coolers of samples.

The Cajun Canyon Express alongside the Henry B. Bigelow for a supply transfer.

Our next “chore” for the day was getting more freshwater.  As I noted in an earlier post earlier, the ship cannot make water in the incident area, so we only have the water we left Key West with, and we’re getting low even with conservation measures. We ordered some water, and the water boat just pulled along-side. They will transfer 8,000 gallons of freshwater to the Henry B. Bigelow at a rate of 110 gallons per minute in about two hours.

We are getting our “chores” out of the way so we can be ready to enter the wellhead area once the “kill” operation is completed. The mud injection was completed yesterday, and they are currently cementing the well. From the surface it looks the same; about 20 ships sitting absolutely still five miles away. But I am sure there is a lot of activity under the surface.

Until we are able to enter the well head area again, we will continue water sampling and acoustic monitoring of the outlying areas.

Jon Hare

Chief Scientist

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