: Yesterday, NPR science correspondent Richard Harris joined a scientist, and went deep underwater to look firsthand.
RICHARD HARRIS: Mike Skuronskee is our pilot.
U: Roger, the checks: Your launch altitude is 880 meters, 8-8-0. You have permission to dive when swimmers are clear.
: Roger. Swimmers clear, Alvin diving.
HARRIS: It's very peaceful.
HARRIS: Yeah. That's why I like diving in the submarine. It's calm and quiet, and then you hit the bottom and you're like, wow.
HARRIS: Joye is from the University of Georgia. And she's trying to see what happened to all the oil that spewed from the BP well. As we reach the bottom, my first impression is, well, it's not here. Everything looks pretty normal.
HARRIS: Tons of fish on the bottom. I don't see any invertebrates in the sediments. But it's hard to say; sometimes, they hide. But there's definitely shrimp and critters crawling around on the sediments.
HARRIS: Some of the clams look happy as - clams. But when the Alvin scrapes the bottom, we discover we're not actually sitting on the usual dark-gray mud that forms the seafloor.
HARRIS: There's oil on the bottom. If you look at the camera, you can see the brown coloration.
HARRIS: We see this brown stuff on coral fans, hit like pine trees along a dusty dirt road. More slimy brown stuff hangs over some of the odd formations of frozen natural gas here, half a mile below the surface. Crabs here normally pick at worms that actually live in this methane ice.
HARRIS: The crabs don't look healthy. See all the dark spots and lesion- looking things? That's not normal.
HARRIS: But as our questions mount, Alvin's batteries run down. It's time to drop our weights and leave this eerie world behind.
: Reach up here, hold that down and that's it. You're at 872 and all weights away, over.
HARRIS: Richard Harris, NPR News, on the research vessel Atlantis, in the Gulf of Mexico.
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