"Woolsey Mound" Is Now the Official Name of the Carbonate Mound at MC118

Detail of the massive Hydrate outcrop at Woolsey Mound within Mississippi Canyon block 118

At the fall 2009 meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Hydrates Research Consortium, the group resolved to petition the United States Board on Geographic Names, Advisory Committee on Undersea Features, to name the site of the Consortium’s Seafloor Observatory, the carbonate-hydrate mound at MC118, in honor and in memory of long-time MMRI Director J. Robert Woolsey. Bob's colleague and friend, Jesse Hunt (Retired Geologist U.S. Department of Interior Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico Region, Office of Resource Evaluation) prepared the justification and submitted the application on behalf of the group.

Following a series of meetings, questions and additional documentation, we were notified on June 15, 2010, that the request had been honored. The mound, now home to a variety of sensors and monitoring devices and made famous during the recent Macondo oil spill by its proximity to the spill (10 nautical miles), will be known as Woolsey Mound and will appear on future U.S. Coast Guard maps and charts as such.

The key points of the documentation follow:

In the 1990's, a project was undertaken by geoscientists at Minerals Management Service (MMS) to locate and delineate seafloor features associated with naturally occurring oil and gas seeps in the Gulf of Mexico using industry 3-D seismic data. One such feature was discovered in Mississippi Canyon Lease Area, Block 118. Submersible dives on the feature revealed that it is the easternmost occurrence of exposed gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico, and that the gas composition of the gas hydrates is quite unique from most other features studied.

Dr. James R. (Bob) Woolsey boarding the Johnson Sea Link research submersible with a crew member in preparation for a launch.

In October, 1998, a Gulf of Mexico Gas Hydrates Research Consortium was formed, largely through the efforts of Dr. James Robert (Bob) Woolsey, Director of the Center for Marine Resources and Environmental Technology (CMRET) and Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute (MMRI) at University of Mississippi. The participants include foremost multidisciplinary experts from 17 academic institutes, four federal government agencies, and industry.

The research consortium has been funded by MMS, as well as Department of Energy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A seafloor observatory was begun and includes instruments for the long-term monitoring of acoustics, seismology, seawater geochemistry, pore fluid geochemistry, oceanographic data, temperature, and geobiological processes. The goal is to monitor the formation and dissociation of gas hydrates and determine environmental influences on these processes over time.

Tragically, Dr. Woolsey was killed in an automobile accident in July of 2008. His personal efforts and management skills made this observatory happen, and it continues today under the coordination of CMRET staff.

Since Dr. Woolsey was instrumental in the creation of the seafloor observatory, participants in the consortium voted unanimously to propose the gas hydrate mound in Mississippi Canyon Block 118 be named in his honor.

(October 2010)