PAUL QUINLAN AND JOSH VOORHEES
The New York Times
June 9, 2010
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Vast underwater concentrations of oil sprawling for miles in the Gulf of Mexico from the damaged, crude-belching BP PLC well are unprecedented in “human history” and threaten to wreak havoc on marine life, a team of scientists said today, a finding confirmed for the first time by federal officials.
Researchers aboard the F.G. Walton Smith vessel briefed reporters on a two-week cruise in which they traced an underwater oil plum 15 miles wide, 3 miles long and about 600 feet thick. The plume’s core is 1,100 to 1,300 meters below the surface, they said.
“It’s an infusion of oil and gas unlike anything else that has ever been seen anywhere, certainly in human history,” said Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia, the expedition leader.
Bacteria are breaking down the oil’s hydrocarbons in a massive, microorganism feeding frenzy that has sent oxygen levels plunging close to what is considered “dead zone” conditions, at which most marine life are smothered for a lack of dissolved oxygen.