This is just an stream of thought thread in regards to the great "What If?' about the Deepwater Horizon disaster. That great What If is, of course,
"What if they do not stop the spill and, even worse, the Louisianna Shelf crumbles, opening the entire deposit up to the ocean?"
At the core, there are really only two possible courses of action...
1. Watch the oil circulate into the Atlantic Ocean and then eventually circle the globe.
2. Figure out how to contain it in the Gulf, effectively saving a slow death of the world's oceans at the expense of a quick and catastrophic death
of the Gulf.
Assuming option 1 is the more evil of the two options, what could be done to facilitate Option 2?
The Gulf circulates seawater by intaking water through the Yucatan Strait and outletting it through the Florida Strait. The Yucatan Strait is, at
it's maximum, about 2,000 meters deep and the Florida Strait is 800 Meters deep.
Brainstorming: What can be done?
The first thing I considered was effectively damming the straits, turning the Gulf into a self contained basin of sorts. The problem with this is
manyfold. First and foremost, I'm not aware of any current engineering methods which could be used to block a channel through a column of water as
deep as 800 meters, let alone 2,000. The amount of fill which to would take isn't just prohibitive, but is virtually impossible. Just a simple math
calculation, neglecting compaction and losses from combatting erosion while dumping into a moving current give us a total fill of at least 1.3
cubic meters for the Yucatan alone.
Narrowest part of strait= length of "dam"160km source
Top of dam= 2km width (extremely rough engineering estimate, impossible to narrow down without running a prismatic analysis of pressures and forces
through the channel... could be much wider)
That's just the Yucatan. 1.3 trillion cubic meters = 1.7 trillion cubic yards = barely a blip compared to the "real issue" here... time. A
standard American dump truck carries about 10 cubic yards of material. It would take 170 billion
of them to complete this task. Using every
dump truck on Earth none of us would see this project completed before we died of old age.
The FLorida Strait would pose the same problem, by the way. Not to mention, what do you do with the Mighty Mississippi River? It would have to be
rerouted to outfall somewhere along the Atlantic Ocean. Still, there would be a never ending battle against all the smaller rivers which dump into
the Gulf, as any raise of water level would have to be quickly combatted by increasing the height of not just the dammed straits, but also the
numerous protective levees which would have to be built on the islands and shores around the Gulf to keep the polluted waters from washing over into
Thinking outside the box to get another solution brought me to the idea of the Panama Canal. Obviously blocking all flow through the Straits is
impossible, but what about focusing on the Strait of Florida and developing a way to simply "discourage" the water from leaving the Gulf by way of
the Keys? I'm thinking of development of some sort of cheesecloth like dissipation system stretched across and into the Florida Strait. At the same
time, widen the Panama Canal, deepen it as well, and install a high volume, high velocity oil scrubbing/collection system inside of it. Dump an oil
coagulent into the Yucatan inflow, allowing it to mix with the suspended oil in the Gulf. This would essentially turn the Gulf of Mexico into a giant
flocculation tank with the FLorida Strait acting as an overflow wier and the Panama Canal would become the primary outfall. Filters would be placed
through the canal to collect the oil floccs (and other debris/death) as the water heads to the Pacific.
Not a great idea, but it is more feasible than the odds of turning the Gulf into a self contained system. The primary downfalls here are again, time
(This would take some years to construct and complete and in that time, damage to the Atlantic would be vast), manpower (the flocc filters would
require massive staffing 24/7, storage of the waste (There would be a steady, nonstop stream of trucks hauling the waste floccs away to be burried or
incinerated), and the fact that the water at the end would still be quite polluted, but at least it would be significantly cleaner than the before
Anybody else have any ideas here, or is this a fool's errand to even be thinking of?