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Today we spent the whole day sailing around the Mississippi Delta in order to reach Grand Isle in Louisiana. It is at the western part of the mouth of this emblematic river. The Mississippi, that gives life, history, music and literature, has at the same time, during too many decades, been the sewer for a vast expanse of the United States from North to South. Now, its delta has also been attacked from the sea by the oil spilled by BP.

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.

As we had predicted, and after a night of sailing, we reached the bay of Port Saint Joe, a small port at the westernmost tip of Florida, at the crack of dawn. At the local marina, they had kindly agreed to receive the Fedex and UPS packages that were sent to us over night from a couple of businesses in California and New Jersey with parts to repair our submarine robot. Sometimes, incredibly enough, these things turn out right. We purchased the parts by phone. They told us that they would be in a tiny port at the other end of a huge country the next morning, and there they were.

We awoke in the Florida Middle Grounds, an area protected against bottom trawling formed by an ancient reef about 100 miles from the coast. Its peaks reach a depth of 25 meters. There we had planned to do another series of submersions. Our initial plan was to use the divers on the reef’s peaks and the ROV on the slopes that dropped off to depths lying outside the scuba’s possibilities. The submarine robot’s problems, that we hope to solve tomorrow, have forced us to concentrate on the shallower parts of the Middle Grounds. For the first time, visibility was excellent. The sandy bottom, sprinkled with coral, also held abundant specimens of coral and tube sponges in which specimens of gobies, spider crabs, grouper, hogfish, angelfish, jellyfish and algae like the halimeda live.

We arrived at the Tampa-Saint Petersburg dock, already quite a bit to the north of the western part of the Florida coast that is bathed in the Gulf waters. Today is the day that several shipmates who have been with us during this initial period of the expedition have had to leave the Latitude.

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