Researchers find thick layer of oil on Gulf floor

Brett Michael Dykes
National Affairs Reporter
The Upshot

Here's the latest installment in the "Where'd all the oil go?" chronicles: University of Georgia researchers have been collecting soil samples from points across the Gulf of Mexico over the past couple of weeks, and now the team reports that it has found an astonishing amount of oil lining the Gulf floor.

Samantha Joye, the team's leader, sums up the research findings: "I've never seen anything like this."

According to NPR's Richard Harris, Joye and her team set sail on Aug. 21 to try to determine where the oil from BP's Gulf spill had gone and soon found what she called a "slime highway" of "very fluffy and porous" oil up to 2 inches thick at points as far as 70 miles away from the site of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion. "We haven't even sampled close to the wellhead yet," Joye told Harris.

Joye also spoke to ABC: "We're finding it everywhere that we've looked. The oil is not gone. It's in places where nobody has looked for it. ... If we're seeing two and a half inches of oil 16 miles away, God knows what we'll see close in -- I really can't even guess, other than to say it's going to be a whole lot more than two and a half inches."

Though the team needs to complete further testing to definitively link the oil on the Gulf floor to BP's busted well, Joye told ABC that the oil could not have collected on the Gulf floor due to natural seepage. That's because it's only showing oil only at the top of the soil samples; oil that had seeped up naturally would be spread out in the team's samples, from the bottom to the top.

Joye also said that she's yet to see any living organism other than bacteria in the samples she and her team have taken, indicating that the oil is, as one might expect, having a detrimental effect on Gulf sea life.

Watch the ABC News report on Joye and her research team, courtesy of ABC News:

After the White House declared last month that the "vast majority" of the oil in the Gulf was gone, independent studies cast doubt on the administration's assertion, and a leading government scientist testified that, indeed, the vast majority of the oil in the Gulf had not disappeared. Meanwhile, officials in Louisiana and Florida are still reporting numerous sightings of surface oil on beaches and in local waterways.

(Photo via AP/Samantha Joye)