Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oil Remains Deep Beneath The Gulf Of Mexico

This blog is a comparison of a primary and secondary source on the topic of the large oil plume found on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico as a result of using oil dispersants to break down the oil that had escaped in the BP oil spill. The primary article was published in Science Magazine this August by Terry C. Hazen and Eric A. Dubinsky and a group of researchers that analyzed the large, clear oil plume. The secondary article was written by John Wingrove for an issue of the Globe and Mail on the same topic. In this blog I will be comparing the two pieces.

After thinking that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was finally coming to an end, a group of American scientists found a 35km long, clear plume of oil at the bottom of the ocean, 1100m below the surface. A large amount of (gamma)-proteobacteria was found in the hydrocarbon plume, which is closely related to the petroleum degraders that had been used to disperse the oil in the first place. They also found that there was a faster than normal rate of biodegradation of the hydrocarbons, even at 5 degrees Celsius. They found the half-life of the oil to be 1.2 – 6.1 days. They believe that it may be possible to use micro-organisms to remove the oil contaminants, even with the lack of oxygen that deep under the sea (Hazen, Dubinsky, et al. 2010). The problem is, since the oil plume has no colour, no one really knows if there are more plumes like this one in the Gulf.

John Wingrove, a writer for Globe and Mail had then written his article based on Hazen and Dubinsky’s findings. This article is considered a secondary source to Hazen and Dubinsky’s original journal. In his article, Wingrove talks about the fact that the U.S. government had been telling the public that the environmental issues concerning the BP oil spill were under control. But Hazen and Dubinsky’s findings say otherwise. They had been using chemical dispersants to break up the oil, about 6.8 million litres, which made the oil break apart and sink to the bottom. The plume was found and measured in June, and it was clear and odourless. During their study, Hazen and Dubinsky had found petroleum degraders in the oil plume. Luckily the plume was much deeper than where most fish live, but many other types of sea life will be affected. At the end of the article Wingrove states, “All [of the research] suggests a grim reality – the oil that leaked into the Gulf of Mexico won’t soon be gone” (Wingrove 2010). The problem is, there is still oil out in the Gulf of Mexico, it will take years to fully degrade, and we are still not aware of impacts it could have on the environment.

As you can see from this information, the primary source is a journal that has been written by the original scientists who carried out the experiment/study. All of their ideas are based on their own facts, and it was all recorded at the time of their study. A secondary resource is an article that has been written based on a primary study. In this case, the secondary source was written by John Wingrove, a writer for the globe and mail. He took information from Hazen and Dubinsky, and wrote it in words for the public to understand. The primary source is written in scientific language that the average person without a science background would not understand.

In this case, both authors were trying to convey the same message. The only difference was Wingrove had added a lot more political information. He mentioned the U.S. government several times throughout the article, even though Hazen and Dubinsky had not mentioned it once. Hazen and Dubinsky were just stating their scientific research and nothing more. Since Wingrove was writing strictly to the public, he added more information and statistics that they would be interested in, instead of just pure observation and analysis. In any case, the primary source is always the most reliable, because it is straight from the researchers themselves. You have to be careful when taking information from a secondary source because anyone could have written it, and added some of their own information, whether it is true or false. Overall I think that it is beneficial to read both a primary and a secondary source when researching information because the secondary source gives you a brief understanding of the topic, while the primary source gives you an in-depth analysis with data to back it up.


Hazen, Terry C., Dubinsky, Eric A. et al. (2010, August 2). Deep-Sea Oil Plume Enriches Indigenous Oil-Degrading Bacteria. Science Magazine.10.1126/science.1195979.

Primary Source:

Wingrove, Josh. (2010, August 20). Oil Remains Deep Beneath The Gulf Of Mexico, Study Shows. Globe and Mail.

Secondary Source:

Cassandra Wiesner 0722271

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