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Gulf of Mexico Oil/Salt Domes


A belt of salt domes lies beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Over 500 mushroom-shaped geological structures formed as the Gulf separated from the Atlantic Ocean. As water evaporated, salts sank to the bottom, creating thick salt beds that rose in some places into domes thousands of feet tall and several miles in diameter. Capped with corals as brilliant and colorful as beds of flowers, two salt domes house the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. It is home to thriving populations of some of the ocean’s largest sharks and rays: fifty-foot long whale sharks, migrating hammerhead sharks, and giant manta rays with twenty-foot wing spans. In the rocks deep below, carbon rich sediments generate oil and gas. Today, there are over 4,000 oil and gas platforms connected by 33,000 miles of pipeline on the Gulf seafloor. Pollutants from the Mississippi River including agricultural fertilizers from as far north as the river’s source in Minnesota spill into the Gulf. These fertilizers stimulate blooms of phytoplankton. When they die every summer, an oxygen-devoid “Dead Zone” as large as New Jersey is formed and causes severe impacts on the Gulf’s marine life.



Ecological Uniqueness
Economic Importance
Oceanographic and Bethymetric Features



Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Flower Garden Banks – Encyclopedia of the Sanctuary
Gulf of Mexico on Wikipedia
Salt Domes of the Gulf of Mexico – scroll down to "Don't Take Salt for Granite, I Mean Granted"
Salt Domes on Wikipedia
Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia
Gulf of Mexico Alliance
Gulfbase - Research Database
Marine Life Complicates Removal of Old Oil Rigs - Washington Post
Major US Oil Source is Tapped - CNN



Diving a Gulf of Mexico Oil Rig



Whale Sighting at 3,000 ft


Manta ray. Photo:NOAA

Squirlfish on Flower Garden Banks. Photo: NOAA, Flower Garden Banks NMS

Oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: NOAA