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August 18, 2010

We explored the abandoned oil wells off Alabama




After another night of sailing, we reached Destin Dome, an area of the Gulf off Alabama where most of the 2,700 abandoned oil wells lie since offshore oil drilling began in the ‘40s of the past century. A few days ago, AP published information on the possibility that the sealing on some of these wells may be deteriorating and allowing oil to leak gradually without anyone detecting it. The Oceana Latitude was near this area, with a high concentration of abandoned wells. Therefore, we decided to do a series of submersions with the ROV to try to document the appearance of some of these old rigs.

Matthias Gorny, Oceana’s German scientist specialized in operating one of the submarine robots our organization uses, controlled his device, making it “fly” to about twenty centimeters from the bottom at a depth of about 25 meters. The first impression was that we were simply above an area intensely subjected to trawling. A spot that was practically razed with poor biodiversity. However, for the first time in this expedition’s dives, we were able to find starfish, mainly of the genus Astropecten.

Nevertheless, after a good while without finding anything relevant, we were able to find an elevation above the seabed that, in spite of not being very marked, made it obvious that there was a structure on the seabed. This structure was covered by a layer of accumulated sediment during perhaps four or five decades. However, its internal composition became clear due to a buildup of dark matter -possibly hydrocarbon remains- piled up by the polychaete worms during the drilling of the galleries where they seek refuge. It is very likely that Oceana has been documenting the condition of abandoned oil rigs.

We have not been able to continue very long in this area. At nightfall, we began our new run, this time toward the mouth of the Mississippi in the state of Louisiana.


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