Updated at 2:18 p.m. ET: Lisa Novak, a civilian employee of the Coast Guard, returned our call to clarify that the one ton of "tarball material" was not, in fact, "found" as the first version of this post's headline said. Instead, it is an aggregation of material collected from the Gulf of Mexico by Vessels of Opportunity, private boats contracted by BP to assist in the cleanup effort. A press release from the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command, "Innovation Improves Tar Ball Removal Capability," describes the process:
"The crew of one of the thousands of Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) working in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill recently recovered approximately two tons of tarball material in the Gulf of Mexico.
The recovery was the result of the kind of creative thought and innovation at work among the more than 27,000 people working around the clock in the Gulf of Mexico in the largest oil spill response in U.S. history.
Designed by Gerry Matherne, a BP contractor and nearshore task force leader, the idea is simple. A shrimp boat with outriggers on each side drags mesh oil-collection bags made of perforated webbing near the ocean surface. As the boat trawls to collect oil patches, the bags, attached to an aluminum frame, collect oil. When filled, the bags are disconnected from the frame by crew on support vessels, and then towed to a lift barge for hoisting into a collection barge."
Updated at 1:01 p.m. ET: While we have calls out to the Coast Guard, there is still some uncertainty about exactly how this was recovered. It appears it might have been "collected" by the Sailfish rather than "found," given information about the Vessel of Opportunity program on the Web. Again, we'll update you here as we learn more.
Original post: The caption doesn't directly say this tarball consists of oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, so we have called and emailed the Coast Guard to see what else they can tell us. They have promised to update us. When they do, we'll update you here.