- News Home
27 November 2013 12:59 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The new head of the National Center for Science Education promises to "fight the good fight" against attacks on...
Analyses of the H7N9 strains isolated from four new cases show that the virus is evolving rapidly, heightening anxiety...
In 2009, Jack Szostak shared a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering the role of telomeres, the end bits of...
Science has exposed a thriving academic black market in China involving shady agencies, corrupt scientists, and...
Paper-selling agencies flourish in the aura of reputable businesses. For some scientists, it may be difficult to tell...
Featuring the first lunar rover in 40 years, Chang'e-3 is seen as an important milestone on China's quest to send a...
Data collected by satellites and floating probes have chronicled a 2-decade rise in the temperature and thickness of a...
Cholesterol, the artery-clogging molecule that contributes to cardiovascular disease, has another nasty trick up its...
- 27 November 2013 12:59 pm , Vol. 342 , #6162
- About Us
As Scientists Encounter Oil Some Find Death 'All the Way Down'
24 May 2010 6:05 pm
Scientists in the Gulf of Mexico are beginning to see oil from the blown Deepwater Horizon well intrude on their research sites. Nancy Rabalais, a biological oceanographer at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Chauvin, who regularly cruises the northern gulf to monitor the dead zone that's found along the coast there, was ambushed by oil last week. It happened on a scheduled cruise unrelated to the disaster.
Rabalais and her team saw oil as the research vessel Pelican was leaving Grand Isle in Barataria Bay via an outlet called the Caminata Pass. But when they stopped 9 miles off shore, the coast seemed clear to scuba dive to replace a faulty underwater oxygen monitor—until the winds and currents changed suddenly. "Thirty-five minutes later, when we came up, there was oil everywhere," she says.
Frank Pope of The Times reports a similar close encounter with the oil while diving with scientists who were studying oil's effects on the water column within the restricted zone near the gushing well:
Along with the marine toxicologist Susan Shaw, of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, I've come to peer into the hidden side of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Wreathed in neoprene and with Vaseline coating the exposed skin around our faces, we slip into the clear water in the lee of the boat. Beneath the mats of radioactive-looking, excrement-coloured sludge are smaller gobs of congealed oil. Taking a cautious, shallow breath through my snorkel I head downwards. Twelve metres under, the specks of sludge are smaller, but they are still everywhere.
Among the specks are those of a different hue. These are wisps of drifting plankton, the eggs and larvae of fish, and the microscopic plants and animals that form the base of almost all marine food webs. Any plankton-eating fish would now have trouble distinguishing food from poison, let alone the larger filter-feeders.
"This is terrible, just terrible," Shaw says, back on the boat. "The situation in the water column is horrible all the way down. Combined with the dispersants, the toxic effects of the oil will be far worse for sea life. It's death in the ocean from the top to the bottom."