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Images: Up From the Seafloor Came a Bubbling Brew

Dark fluids containing oil and natural gas gush out of the broken riser pipe at the Macondo well near the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Officials needed an accurate measurement of how much oil was flowing out. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey)

BP officials initially contacted scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for help. Scientists recognized the similarity between the gushing drill pipe and volcanic hydrothermal vents (above), which they have studied for decades in the deep sea. (Photo by Pat Hickey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Ocean Intervention III was equipped with the remotely operated vehicle Maxx3 (in cage). Maxx3 transported the WHOI acoustic instruments to the site of the leaking pipe near the seafloor. (Photo by Andy Bowen, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Workers installed two WHOI acoustic instruments on Maxx3: an acoustic Doppler current profiler and an imaging multibeam sonar. The instruments provided a detailed view of the cross sectional area and the velocity of the gushing jet of oil and gas. Multiply these average areas by their average velocities and you get a good estimate of the rate of oil and gas released. (Photo by Andy Bowen, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The scientists also needed a pristine sample directly from the broken drill pipe to determine how much of the fluid was composed of oil versus natural gas. To collect the well fluid, WHOI scientists used an isobaric gas-tight sampler, or IGT, a deep-sea device developed at WHOI to sample hydrothermal vent fluids. The manipulator arm of a robotic vehicle (upper right) moves the IGT sampler toward the jet of hot oil and gas shooting out of the broken drill pipe. (With permission of U.S. Coast Guardand Rich Camilli, WHOI)

WHOI scientist Rich Camilli rides a helicopter to the Ocean Intervention III in May 2010 to measure rate of oil flowing from the blown-out Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo by Andy Bowen, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Andy Bowen, director of the National Deep Submergence Facility at WHOI, works with the remotely operated vehicle Maxx3, which carried acoustic sensors to the measure the rate of oil flowing out of the blown-out Macondo well drill pipe. (Photo courtesy of Andy Bowen, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Two WHOI scientists, Rich Camilli and Andy Bowen, helicoptered aboard the Ocean Intervention III, a 297-foot ship that was a platform for a variety of operations near the Deepwater Horizon blowout. They used a novel technique using acoustic instruments on a remotely operated deep-sea vehicle to measure the volume and velocity of the flow directly at the leak site. (Photo by Dan Torres, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)