Scientists Use Canisters To Detect Spilled Oil
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
I'm Renee Montagne.
LYNN NEARY, Host:
NPR's Elizabeth Shogren talked to them as they packed up and unloaded their gear from the boat.
ELIZABETH SHOGREN: Engineer Arno Dirks(ph) sent open metal canisters down deep into the Gulf of Mexico.
MONTAGNE: They close and take a certain amount of water at a certain depth, and uncontaminated. So we know that this water comes at the depth of where we triggered it.
SHOGREN: Vernon Asper is a marine science professor from the University of Southern Mississippi.
P: And we found oil on the surface, of course. We found oil just below the surface. And we found these plumes down deep under the surface, hundreds of meters down, using this instrument.
SHOGREN: How big were the plumes?
P: The largest was probably 15 or 20 miles long and maybe four or five miles wide.
SHOGREN: Asper says inside the plumes, bacteria naturally found in the water are busy.
P: The microbes are decomposing the oil and using up the oxygen. That low oxygen is going to have an impact on the other organisms down there that obviously need to breathe.
SHOGREN: Throughout their voyage, the researchers saw oil in all kinds of forms. They saw sheen...
P: Which just looks like a different color on the surface; sometimes silver, sometimes gray, sometimes gold. In thicker oil you'll start to see these globs; they look like cotton candy underwater. The heaviest oil is just black oil. It just looks like somebody drained the oil out of their car and poured it on the surface.
SHOGREN: But the researchers say it's still early to know the impact of the oil on marine life. BP officials say they are not aware of the researchers' findings, but they say they have no plans to clean up the deep water of the Gulf.
MONTAGNE: Oil, by nature and its own specific gravity, isn't going to stay in a plume like that. It should rise to the surface and then we'll be able to attack the spill in that way.
SHOGREN: The company made some progress yesterday; it connected a new mile-long tube to intercept the oil flowing from the broken pipe.
MONTAGNE: I'm hopeful we'll be able to capture 80 percent of it.
SHOGREN: The Obama administration, last week, pressed BP to confirm that it will pay for the damage done. Dudley says BP will.
MONTAGNE: But as we've said, we will take responsibility for the cleanup. We will clean this up.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MONTAGNE: Well, you can't pay for, you know, the ecosystem.
SHOGREN: David Fields was at a concert in New Orleans yesterday. It's raising money for fishermen and other people hurt by the disaster.
MONTAGNE: I mean all the money in the world is not going to sop up 5,000 barrels of oil a day that's going into the Gulf. So, I hope they have money and I hope the fishermen get a lot, but Mother Nature is not going to be paid off.
SHOGREN: Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, New Orleans.
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