NOAA scientists say oil may exist on sea floor - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

NOAA scientists say oil may exist on sea floor

Gordon Gunter (Photo source: NOAA) Gordon Gunter (Photo source: NOAA)
PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) -

By Jessica Bowman – email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - After being near ground zero of the oil crisis for eight days, the NOAA fisheries research vessel the Gordon Gunter has returned. The ship docked Friday at Singing River Island in Pascagoula.

Scientists aboard the Gordon Gunter spent eight days offshore near the head of the oil leak covering more than 500 miles of sea floor using multiple pieces of technology to try and detect oil below the water's surface.

Right now the possibility of oil existing on the sea floor is unknown. But the scientists say more information about underwater plumes is surfacing.

Dr. Tom Weber from the University of New Hampshire is one of the scientists on the mission.

"This is basically our mission control. We're running sonar from here, we're processing data from here," Weber said.

He said with monitoring of depth levels, experts were able to determine where they wanted to drop sampling equipment.

"We did not expect to find were these sort of vertical features there, and what those are suggestive of are natural methane seeps."

That is where oil could possibly exist.

"When we see things like that, we drop our CTD cast. We actually take samples of the water. Those go back to the lab."

CTD stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. The lines on the screen are where the casts were dropped throughout the sea floor.  NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco said although analysis is not complete, there is definitely oil beneath the surface.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco said, "There's no doubt that there's oil beneath the surface. The question is; where is it, in what concentration and what is the source?"

Dr. Lubchenco said it's quite possible that it's from the Deepwater Horizon site, but that will not be confirmed until the samples are processed. Scientist said they only have preliminary information. They will get more after the samples are analyzed.

"There's clearly a lot of oil that's coming up right there," Dr. Weber said. "With the initial work that we've done, we can't say whether or not subsurface plumes exist or whether they don't exist. What we can say is that it's a very complicated environment out there."

NOAA officials said more than 1,000 two liter sample bottles were collected during the mission. Those samples are being analyzed at an independent laboratory. The results should be complete within the next two weeks.

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