Hopes High for Whale of a Test

Supertanker continues 48-hour oil-skimming trial
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 4, 2010 7:50 AM CDT
A beach walker makes his way past oil cleanup workers on the beach in Dauphin Island, Ala., Saturday, July 3, 2010. The cleanup workers outnumbered the numbers of tourists visiting the beach. Oil from...   (Dave Martin)
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(Newser) – The latest hopes are riding on a massive new skimmer to clean oil from near the spewing well in the Gulf of Mexico, while a local Louisiana parish's plan to block the slick has been rejected by federal officials. A 48-hour test of the Taiwanese vessel dubbed "A Whale" began yesterday and was to continue through today as the vessel cruised a 25-square-mile test site just north of the Macondo well.

The US Coast Guard and BP are waiting to see if the vessel, which is 10 stories high, can live up to its makers' promise of being able to process up to 21 million gallons of oil-fouled water a day. A Whale is being tested close to the wellhead because officials believe it will be most effective where the oil is thickest rather than closer to shore. But the wait has frustrated some local officials, who say the mammoth skimmer would be a game-changer in protecting vulnerable coastlines.

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