blowout beneath the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the real-time Web has been leveraged to communicate between concerned parties. At other times it has been noteworthy for how it could have been used but wasn't. Here are five instances where the real-time Web intersected with the blowout's aftermath and those caught in its wake.In the month since the well
1. No Real-Time Connection from the Rig
Transocean, the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig, told the U.S. Congress that the last seven hours of data on the day of the blowout are missing. There was, in effect, no "black box." Nor, according to the Associated Press, was there any real-time data available from the rig in the aftermath. This despite one of the actors, Halliburton, being contractual required to provide just such a link to shore officials.
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Newman, the Transocean CEO, told legislators that alarms are monitored on the rig through a vessel management system, or VMS. But he said such records were not transmitted to shore.
"And so the VMS system, along with the logs of the VMS system, would have gone down with the vessel," he said.
"So you have no mirrored backup data device so that that information is recorded at some other location than on the rig itself?" asked an incredulous Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.
"We do not have real-time off-rig monitoring of what's going on on the vessel," Newman replied.
Not just questions of legal culpability, but engineering and other scientific questions could have been answered in time to stop 36 days of oil pumping into the Gulf.
2. Oil Spill Social Media
Early this month, we published a post outlining the social media efforts being made by the parties involved in the oil spill. They ranged from BP to the Coast Guard.
A collaborative multimedia website, Gulf of Mexico - Deepwater Horizon Incident, rich in social media, has launched with information for those who are or might be hit.
The site is being maintained by British Petroleum, which owns the oil; Transocean, which owns the rig; the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
A Flickr slideshow, hosted by U.S. Coast Guard Eighth District External Affairs, plays at the center, beside a clickable list of news items and documents, some in PDF format. Links are provided to the service's Twitter account, Oil_Spill_2010 and its Facebook page, Deepwater Horizon Response. The response team's YouTube page is at Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
3. Crowdsourcing Scientific Estimates of Flow Rates in Real-Time
The U.S. Congress ordered BP to broadcast a real-time video of the leak in the wake of independent scientists' valuable contribution to the investigation. After BP released a short video clip of the spill, independent scientists used it to estimate a flow rate that was up to 20 times higher than the official figure.
Federal agencies, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, have set up what is being called the Flow Rate Technical Group. The FRTG, led by Admiral Thad Allen, has been tasked with coming up with a more precise figure. That figure was supposed to be released "early (this) week." It has not been so far.
4. Florida Live-Cams and Photo-Shares Its Beaches
The economy of Florida's Gulf Coast is significantly influenced by tourism. Nervous residents and officials are anticipating with some trepidation the possible arrival of oil from the spill. In advance of the Memorial Day Weekend and, further along, the all-important summer months, Florida's state tourism site, VisitFlorida.com, has set up a Web cam and photo sharing site called Florida Live where potential visitors can check and make sure their destinations are oil-free.
According to the Sun Sentinel, the site was created in conjunction with a television ad campaign. The campaign, running from Dallas to Raleigh, North Carolina, sought to reassure visitors.
Gulf Coast and Keys hotels have started to report cancellations and the 727-room Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort reported a decline of 16% in calls to their reservation center.
5. The Guardian Live Blogs the Top Kill
The latest attempt by British Petroleum, the company with overall responsibility at the site, to seal the well was via a process called "top kill." Today BP attempted to pump mud into the well and hopefully stopper the blowout long enough to pump concrete into it. The British newspaper the Guardian lived blogged it.
Starting at 2:00 p.m., Central time, reporter Richard Adams followed the procedure, giving up-to-the-minute news and background. At 8:20 p.m., Adams posted his last entry for the night, saying that 7,000 barrels of mud had been pumped into the well and quoting Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer of BP's exploration and production division, as saying, "Over the next 24 hours we'll know if it will be successful, but it's too early to know now."
Thanks to Deane Rimerman for valuable research assistance.