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Locating a sunken vessel using SAR imagery: detection of oil spilled from the SS Jacob Luckenbach

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While Radarsat-1 SAR has been used in oil pollution monitoring, it has been mostly used for large spills because using it to differentiate between oil slicks and natural features is difficult. In this investigation, when visual observations failed to pinpoint the source of oil fouling birds off the California coast, Radarsat-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images were analysed using a methodology initially developed by Advanced Resources International, Inc. (ARI) for locating small oil seeps from submerged abandoned wells. Two images contained areas that were consistent with an oil source. Subsequent sighting of oil by recreational divers near a sunken vessel linked the features observed on the imagery to an oil source. The link demonstrates the ability of SAR to detect similar persistent episodes, as well as the validity of the modified ARI approach used.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Hazardous Materials Response Division, Office of Response and Restoration, National Ocean Service National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Seattle Washington USA, Email: 2: Office of Research and Applications, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Camp Springs Maryland USA, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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