Researchers in the Gulf of Mexico "are discovering a substantial layer of oily sediment stretching for dozens of miles in all directions," according to the report Scientists Find Thick Layer Of Oil On Sea Floor airing on the radio program All Things Considered at 7 p.m. EDT.
This suggests that "a lot" of the oil "has settled to the sea floor" according to the report.
The research mission aboard the Oceanus began on August 21 and is ongoing.
A professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, Samantha Joye, told ATC that, "It's showing up in samples of the sea floor, between the well site and the coast." On a satellite phone from the boat, she said, "I've collected literally hundreds of sediment cores from the Gulf of Mexico, including around this area. And I've never seen anything like this."
In some places the oily material was "some places more than two inches thick — covering the bottom of the sea floor... there are little tar balls in there," she added.
The report added, "It's very clearly a fresh layer. Right below it she finds much more typical seafloor mud. And in that layer, she finds recently dead shrimp, worms and other invertebrates."
"We have to [chemically] fingerprint it and link it to the Deepwater Horizon... But the sheer coverage here is leading us all to come to the conclusion that it has to be sedimented oil from the oil spill, because it's all over the place," Joye said.
All of the samples sets taken on the trip "contain this layer," noted ATC, "These new findings strongly suggest that it didn't just drizzle oil — in some places it was a blizzard."
Joye said, "It's starting to sound like a tremendous amount of oil. And we haven't even sampled close to the well head yet."
David Hollander is part of the the University of South Florida research team that last month found oil particles covering the seafloor just 40 miles from the coast of Panama City, FL.
According to the report Hollander said, "The government's original attempt to figure out what happened to the oil toted up how much washed ashore, how much evaporated and how much might have stayed under the waves. But it didn't consider that oil could also end up on the sea floor."
"So now the bottom really is turning out to be an important sink for the oil," he noted
And how close to shore is this sunken oil? "Joye's findings so far have found oil in depths ranging from 300 to 4,000 feet."