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Coast is clear

7/30/2010

With so much bad news -- most of which has included the letters "BP" -- over the past few months, I've become numb to the slew of press releases bombarding my inbox. Today was different, as a pair of positive reports prompted the rare journalistic smile.

These reports speak for themselves, so I'll hold the Hemmingway wannabe stuff and just go straight newsy on ya'll.

In the first report, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states that Southern Florida, the Florida Keys, and the East Coast are unlikely to experience any effects from the remaining oil on the surface of the Gulf. A new NOAA analysis reveals that the oil continues to degrade and is hundreds of miles away from the loop current. This analysis assumes the Deepwater Horizon/BP wellhead will remained capped.

"For southern Florida, the Florida Keys, and the Eastern Seaboard, the coast remains clear," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "With the flow stopped and the loop current a considerable distance away, the light sheen remaining on the Gulf's surface will continue to biodegrade and disperse, but will not travel far."

NOAA's analysis comes from its ongoing work related to the Deepwater Horizon/BP response and recovery efforts. Intrinsic to the evaluation of these efforts, aerial and satellite-based observations of surface oil and monitoring of the loop current provide a real-time picture of progress.

Recent overflights have found only scattered patches of light sheen near the Mississippi Delta. NOAA considers this an indication that oil collection efforts have been effective and that the remaining oil is naturally dispersing and biodegrading.

Throughout this ordeal, Floridian's have most feared the possible results of oil hitching a ride in the Gulf's loop current. A branch of the larger Gulfstream flowing along Florida's east coast, the loop current forms a warm water highway that could have potentially carried oil from the Northern Gulf to Southwestern Florida where it could have reached the Keys. Oil continuing along the loop current's course could have threatened Florida's east coast, as well as the entire Eastern Seaboard.

According to NOAA's report, a large loop current eddy, called Eddy Franklin, has pinched off and detached from the loop current. As of July 25, Eddy Franklin was more than 100 miles from the nearest surface oil associated with the Deepwater Horizon BP source. Until the loop current fully reforms, there is no clear way for oil to be transported to southern Florida or beyond, which is not projected to occur for several months. At that point, essentially all of the remaining surface oil will have dissipated.

Lost Kayak's Owner Safe and Sound

Few sights evoke such dreadful uncertainty as an unoccupied vessel adrift at sea. Fears for ill-fated passengers quickly arise from the only immediate clue. Fortunately, the case of a kayak spotted drifting off Key Largo recently ended favorably, as the U.S. Coast Guard located the vessel's owner alive and well at his home in the Cayman Islands. Apparently, the kayak was lost at sea for about six weeks and drifted roughly 600 miles from the Cayman Islands to the Straits of Florida.

According to a Coast Guard report, identifying the owner involved extensive international collaboration. A Key Largo boater initially notified watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Key West, Fla., that the kayak was found drifting six miles east of Key Largo. Coast Guard responders searched the local area to find the owner and confirm no one was in distress. Once local search efforts were completed, the Coast Guard expanded its search and contacted a Fenn kayak distributor in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Notably, Fenn kayaks are manufactured in South Africa and sold by only two kayak distributors in the U.S. One of the distributors posted an online notice, which was spotted by the owner's friend in Mauritius, an African country off the east coast of Madagascar, who contacted the owner in the Cayman Islands. The owner is now making plans to retrieve the lost kayak.

"This case was a good exercise for our search and rescue planners," said Capt. Pat DeQuattro, commander of Coast Guard Sector Key West. "I'm very pleased with their determination and initiative to track down the owner of this unique kayak."