Mississippi scientists find oxygen depletion near oil leak - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi scientists find oxygen depletion near oil leak

GULF OF MEXICO (WLOX) – Mississippi scientists studying the impact of the BP oil leak found signs of oxygen depletion of the water as far 2.5 miles from the site of the leaking well.

Dr. Vernon Asper, a marine sciences professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, is part of the research team. Asper has been sharing discoveries of the mission with WLOX News by email from the Gulf.

Wednesday night, Asper wrote, "Today we made what may turn out to be one of the most important discoveries of the trip. Or it could be nothing; it's too early to tell."

The team of scientists from USM and the University of Mississippi are aboard the research vessel Pelican investigating the oil that is not visible to satellites or aircraft.

"We are the first scientists on the scene and apparently the only ones so far," Asper said.

The devices deployed into the water recorded the presence of several layers of "material" at depths from 700 meters to more than 1300 meters.

"Intrigued by this discovery, we decided to try to map this feature to see if it was emanating from the well," Asper wrote. "As expected, the signals (fluorescence, oxygen depletion, and beam attenuation, which is a measure of water clarity) all increased as we approached the well. We spent the rest of the day acquiring samples."

The researchers concluded that the highest readings are to the southwest of the site where the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank April 20.

The team encountered more dead sea creatures; which were visible on the research equipment when the team pulled from the water. Asper said the Gulf scientists have been inundated with requests from chemists to collect fresh oil from the surface of the water near the leak site.

"To obtain this oil, we went to the source, the area where the least disturbed oil is reaching the surface. Ordinarily, this would be the site of considerable skimming and even burning activity but a fair swell (maybe 3'-5') was running today and the boom vessels were unable to work, so we did not interfere with their activity," Asper said.

The Pelican traveled very close to the operation at the accident site Wednesday.

"We were able to observe their activities and noted that two of the vessels were spraying some kind of liquid, presumably water, into the air for hours on end. It looked like they had their firefighting equipment in operation, but why they were aiming the torrent into the air and why for so long remains a mystery."

The Mississippi research team will continue collecting samples until Saturday.

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