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Deepwater Horizon oil sample collection

Tight Sampling Deadline

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard arranged for a small group of WHOI researchers to be transferred from a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico via a fastboat and hoisted aboard Ocean Intervention III—a 297-foot ship operating directly above the broken pipe spewing oil near the seafloor. The researchers were given 12 hours to collect what turned out to be the definitive samples of the oil and gas before it mixed with seawater. They used an isobaric gas-tight sampler, an instrument developed to capture fluids from hydrothermal vents and maintain them under high pressure as they are brought up from the deep. (Photo by Dan Torres, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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