BP live feed 'spillcam' now offers 12 views of oil spill

Already an Internet phenomenon, the BP live feed – which helped galvanize public concern about the Gulf oil spill – has broadened its offerings. On display Thursday: BP is attempting a 'top cap.'

By , Staff writer

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    A remotely operated undersea vehicle works on the leaking riser pipe at the site of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in this video image taken from a BP live video feed.
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Armchair explorers received a big bonus Thursday when BP, at the request of a congressman, made available all 12 live feeds documenting the drama taking place 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

The BP live feed – or spillcam – has given an often-harrowing glimpse into the Apollo 13-like mission to cap a runaway well fouling the US Gulf Coast. Millions have tuned in since it went live last month.

Although 12 video feeds have already been in use, only one at a time was available to the public until now. The images are used to help conduct the work at the Macondo wellhead.

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IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill

“These dozen views of the spill will finally provide the American public and independent observers the unfettered access needed to assess both the progress and destruction happening a mile below the Gulf,” said Rep. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, in a press release taking credit for the channel expansion. “The release of the Spillcam brought the urgency of this disaster into homes across the United States, and this new level of transparency will allow for robust, real-time information to the world.”

The show has, in fact, improved. What began as a single shot of an incessant geyser coming out of a crumpled riser pipe has evolved to show deep-sea "disaster bots" at work wielding wrenches and diamond-tipped underwater chain saws. Adding 11 views (though some were blank Thursday morning) only heightened the experience.

Current viewers might see bots with names like Viking Poseidon ROV 1 handling ropes and cutting metal.

On Wednesday, home viewers caught a drama as one bot played undersea lumberjack to cut away a piece of riser pipe. The bot got the saw stuck, and BP had to scuttle the attempt. Another bot came in later with what looked like a giant pair of gardening shears to complete the job.

On Thursday, having cut the pipe, BP is preparing to place a "top cap" with a rubber seal around the pipe in hopes of siphoning off most of the oil the well is currently unleashing. The top-cap device itself can be seen from the Enterprise ROV 2 cam.

While BP is taking hits for a lack of transparency and even obfuscation about the larger scope of the spill, it's hard to argue that the oil giant, even if against its will, could be giving a more dramatic view of the work. On display are the challenges of what Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen called "trying to find with no human access legitimate ways to do things that have never been done before." He added, "It's check and adaptation, check and evolution."

In other words, high drama.

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill

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