Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 24 Issue 02

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Volume 24, No. 2
Pages 200 - 211


Troubled Waters of the Gulf of Mexico

Nancy N. Rabalais
First Paragraph

The gusher has ended, but before it did, an estimated 206 million gallons of crude oil and methane gas escaped from the Macondo well in lease block Mississippi Canyon 252. We know it better as the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill that resulted from a series of mechanical and safety failures leading to an explosion, the deaths of 11 workers, and the largest accidental oil spill in history. The well was in the northern Gulf of Mexico in 1500 m of water, not the deepest in this petroleum production frontier, but in an otherwise blue-water, pristine ocean home to deepwater corals and pods of sperm whales, and one of two spawning areas for Atlantic bluefin tuna. Satellite images of black oil at the surface marred this picture as the oil continued to spew from the ocean bottom and spread into the northern Gulf of Mexico. Innumerable lives were affected—from microbes to humans—and the world was transfixed by the continuous images of oil and gas blowing from the Gulf bottom while technology raced to catch up with Mother Nature.


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