The mass first appeared in
in mid-December, about 30-60 miles south
of the Florida keys. It held together until early February, when it began to move in towards the shoreline, and has
now broken up and dissipated somewhat along some 120 miles of Florida coastline.
Speculation is rife
as to the cause of the phenomenon, and theories
are being fielded which blame local river pollution, algal bloom (like
although without the corresponding fish-kills), and
even underwater fountains of black water from the seabed. Scientists are also analyzing
satellite photographs from previous years to see if the "black water" has appeared
before, without anyone noticing it. It is generally agreed, however, that this is
the first significant occurance.
No major fish-kills have been reported in the area of the black water, although local
fisherman report an abyssmal season of fishing in the vicinity. Researchers have begun
to collect samples of the water for analysis, and oxygen has been found in the area, so
it is not "dead zone", as some had suspected.
The Florida Keys, besides being prime fishing territory, is also the home of a major
Marine Sanctuary. Billy Bartels, superintendant of the sanctuary, says that the
aftereffects of the black water will
Bartels was also one of the
first to have a microscopic look at the brackish water, and concludes that the effect is
not caused by algae, although no one has yet said what it is caused by.
More results from the sampling and analysis are expected during the coming weeks. Watch the
for up to the minute reports from local scientists, fishermen,
and others affected by this phenomenon.