Ten years after the largest accidental oil spill in history, scientists look back on insights gained about how microbes and chemical processes degrade oil. And they still see gaps that need to be filled before the next big spill.

Early on the morning of April 21, 2010, Samantha “Mandy” Joye awoke to an ominous email. A colleague of hers was out on the Gulf of Mexico on board the R/V Pelican, one of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium’s research ships. In the distance, she could see smoke billowing into the sky. There seemed to be more ships on the water than usual, too. With limited internet access on the ship, she asked Joye to figure out what was going on.

That evening, Joye, an oceanographer and microbiologist at the University of Georgia, discovered the cause: an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, located about 65 km off the Louisiana coast in an area known as the Macondo Prospect.

According to reports that night, 11 workers on the platform were missing; officials later confirmed that the workers had all died in the explosion. As she read the initial descriptions of the explosion, Joye felt her stomach tightening into a knot. The wells in this part of the Gulf are deep below the ocean’s surface.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *