Scientists Find Oil On The Gulf's Seafloor, In Least Surprising News Of 2010

Does anyone even remember that time the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and touched off a massive undersea oil volcano? Last I heard, the good news was that the oil had mainly disappeared, through a combination of hungry microbes, and also miracles! But reporters in the Gulf told other stories. And while America was preparing to burn Qurans for 9/11 Day, NPR went out and found the missing oil. Three guesses where they found it!

Scientists on a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico are finding a substantial layer of oily sediment stretching for dozens of miles in all directions. Their discovery suggests that a lot of oil from the Deepwater Horizon didn't simply evaporate or dissipate into the water -- it has settled to the seafloor.

The Research Vessel Oceanus sailed on Aug. 21 on a mission to figure out what happened to the more than 4 million barrels of oil that gushed into the water. Onboard, Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, says she suddenly has a pretty good idea about where a lot of it ended up. It's showing up in samples of the seafloor, between the well site and the coast.

"I've collected literally hundreds of sediment cores from the Gulf of Mexico, including around this area. And I've never seen anything like this," she said in an interview via satellite phone from the boat.

Scientists describe the oil they've found as "fluffy" and "porous" and "more than 2 inches thick" and "all over the place" and containing "recently dead shrimp, worms and other invertebrates." Says Samantha Joye, of the University of Georgia's Marine Sciences Department, "It's starting to sound like a tremendous amount of oil. And we haven't even sampled close to the wellhead yet."

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