Mystery Sheen Near Deep Water Horizon Site

Oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico, as seen on Sept. 21, 2012. (NOAA photo)

Oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico, as seen on Sept. 21, 2012. (NOAA photo)

In September an oil sheen about four miles long had appeared in the Gulf of Mexico near the Deep Water Horizon well site.  The sheen was originally spotted on a satellite image from BP.  That oil from the sheen matches the oil from Deep Water Horizon site.

On December 15, remotely operated vehicles were sent to the Deepwater Horizon wreckage and the surrounding area.

“No apparent source of the surface sheen has been discovered by this effort,” said Capt. Duke Walker, Federal On-Scene Coordinator for Deepwater Horizon. “Next steps are being considered as we await the lab results of the surface and subsurface samples and more detailed analysis of the video shot during the mission.”

But of unfortunately, “The sheen is not feasible to recover” said Walker, but “does not pose a risk to the shoreline” Shoreline? What about the open ocean ecosystem?

Video of the ROV inspections can be found at the following links:

Well Heads


Riser Pipe

Containment Dome

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.