Search continues for submerged oil in MS Sound

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Vessels of Opportunity spent much of the day Friday searching for sub-surface oil in the Mississippi Sound. The hunt for underwater oil and dispersant is the latest priority for recovery work on the water.

In a normal summer season, charter boat captain Ike Stork would be taking tourists out fishing this time of year. But instead of trolling for game fish, he's among the boats on the hunt for underwater oil.

With the Mississippi Sound divided into grid boxes, each one representing four square miles, the various teams are assigned specific sections of water.

"We have been assigned a grid, a section of the Mississippi Sound. And our strike force teams have gone out through that zone and they're taking samples of the water column and they're making sure there's no oil sub-surface," said Coast Guard CPO Darren Root.

Our assigned grid is about seven miles from shore, just south-southwest of Beau Rivage resort.

"There are four groups scattered throughout the sound. In this particular group there's a total of eight strike force boats assigned," Root explained.

The method and means of testing for oil is straight forward. With an anchor on one end, and a series of absorbent pads tied to a rope, lower it to the bottom for 30 seconds.

"We're dropping right now," the voice on the marine radio crackled.

"That weight goes down through the water column. And any hydro carbons that are sub-surface, the absorbent pads will absorb the oil or the hydro carbon," Root said.

"Stress Reliever, second drop clean," came the loud voice from the radio.

It's the same radio message we heard throughout the morning.

"Tuna Chaser, third drop clean."

The bright white absorbent pads were pulled from the water, still bright and white.

Coast guardsmen record and transmit testing data with handheld GPS-like devices.

"When boats get on station, they take a fix with their GPS and then they record the data that is found. Is there any sub surface oil detected? The depth of the water," Root said.

Captain Ike Stork knows there is still an oil problem. He's seen the tar balls washing ashore and heard reports from tow boats about oil spots in the gulf.

"Hopefully, we can aboard and clean it up," said the sun tanned captain.

That's the whole reason he signed up for the VoO program:  wanting to do his part to save his livelihood.

"The fishing. The seafood industry," said Stork," That's my life."

On this morning at least, the news on the water is welcome.

"Beau Coup, fourth drop. Clean," came the radio voice again.

No suspected oil was discovered during our time on the water. The coast guardsman WLOX News interviewed also told us his team did not find any evidence of oil all day on Thursday.

The entire survey and sampling of the sound is expected to take up to two weeks.

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