Under the Sea Aftermath of Oil Spill, Chemicals Unknown
May 16, 2010
(ChattahBox)— The massive volume of crude oil leaking from the bottom of the Gulf sea and the chemicals used to disperse it, may have devastating effects on the deep underwater ecosystem for generations. But the full damage is not yet known. The sunken Deepwater Horizon oil rig is 5,000 feet below the surface, making the leak difficult to cap. And the deep underwater depth also poses a challenge for scientists and biologists, as they try to assess the potential environmental damage to the Gulf of Mexico. We are in uncharted territory.
Much like the fictional character Captain Nemo, from Jules Verne’s classic novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” scientists are just beginning to explore the mysterious depths of the seafloor, with its freezing temperatures and bone-crushing pressure. And recalling the famous giant squid encounter in Verne’s underwater tale; the many-armed massive creatures are actually a vital food source for sperm whales. If the oil spill kills off the giant creatures, what happens to the whales?
What impact will thousands of gallons of oil and chemical dispersants have on the mysterious, yet delicate ecosystem of the deep ocean? Scientists don’t really know for sure. But what was is known, is that the seafloor is teaming with life, providing food for sharks and whales, as well as other creatures.
The Washington Post has an excellent article on the unknown effects of the massive oil spill deep below the surface:
“There is beauty in the lightless deep as well. Fan corals, lacylike doilies, form gardens on the seafloor and on sunken ships. The deep is full of crabs, sponges, sea anemones. Sharks hunt in the dark depths, as do sperm whales that feed on giant squid. The sperm whales have formed a year-round colony near the mouth of the Mississippi River, and have been known to rub themselves on oil pipes just like grizzlies rubbing against pine trees. This is the unseen world imperiled by the uncapped oil well a mile below the surface of the gulf. The millions of gallons of crude, and the introduction of chemicals to disperse it, have thrown this underwater ecosystem into chaos, and scientists have no answer to the question of how this unintended and uncontrolled experiment in marine biology and chemistry will ultimately play out.”
Because of the particular nature of the Gulf of Mexico, with its churning currents and the depth of the oil leak, massive amounts of oil have not yet made it to the water’s surface or the shoreline, and instead have sunk to the seafloor. But what is unseen at the bottom of the ocean, is what is worrying scientists.
See the Washington Post for more.