The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank after a fire on April 22. Afterwards, John Amos, a geologist and founder of SkyTruth, went to work. Using the skill he once used as an exploration geologist for oil and gas companies, he analyzed satellite images, radar and photos from airplanes of the spill. Then, Amos challenged both the government and British Petroleum estimates that 1,000 barrels of oil were gushing daily from the wellhead nearly a mile below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.
Once Amos weighed in, federal officials and BP quickly revised the estimated daily rate to 5,000 barrels.
Recently, Amos estimated that the leak is now at 25,000 barrels a day. He estimates that the slick contains more than 11.1 million gallons of oil, which would make it the largest oil spill in American history.
SkyTruth was founded by Amos, who works out of his house in West Virginia. For ten years, he worked for oil and gas companies, analyzing images to find oil fields. Then, he had a change of heart. He told Grist, “Those fascinating images displayed unambiguous signs of human-caused destruction: oil slicks in the oceans, forest reserves being chewed away by logging on all sides, mines causing perpetual pollution of lakes and streams, oil and gas drilling spreading inexorably across vast areas of public land. And I couldn't ignore the fact that I was contributing to this both personally and professionally.
“Finally, I saw … satellite images of the area around Mount St. Helens taken several years after the eruption. It clearly showed the forested area devastated by the blast. But there was something else, something the public hadn't been shown on the TV news: . . .
[Oil and oil sheen are seen off an island, top, in the waters of Chandeleur Sound, La., Wednesday, May 5, 2010. Courtesy Sacramento Bee's The Frame. Photo: AP / Eric Gay]