charter yacht LatitudeNews media here in the States, taking their cues from the federal government, have been saying since early August that the "vast majority" of the spilled BP oil has been cleaned up or dispersed from the Gulf of Mexico. A handful of more recent reports, such as this one from earlier this week on CNN, have included contrary voices who claim that the truth is being hidden, literally underwater, and that the majority of the oil remains in the Gulf's ecosystem.

The only way to discern reality from spin is of course to have scientists perform research and gather data. That's why I was so happy to learn this week about the research partnership between Oceana, the world's largest international organization focused wholly on ocean conservation, and the owner of the 170-foot expedition charter yacht Latitude.

You may remember Latitude from this article that I published after spending a few days onboard during a charter in Panama's Las Perlas Islands. As I told you then, Latitude is a wonderfully different type of charter yacht, a true expedition vessel that is uniquely designed for fishing and scuba diving in some of the most remote locations on the planet.

Right now, though, requests for immediate charters are being turned away--because Latitude has become the temporary home of Oceana's scientists. The owner of Latitude has agreed to let his yacht spend the next month mapping the underwater oil plume with sophisticated sensors. Scientists also will use a remotely operated vehicle to investigate a deep-reef complex off Alabama's shore that is an important habitat for food and sport fish.

"Latitude is not a white swan," the owner's representative told me yesterday. "It’s a rugged boat that can go anywhere in the world. The owner built it that way because he loves the ocean, to go where other boats cannot go. When Oceana came along, it was a natural thing for the owner to get involved. His personal love of the sea made him want to help.”

And help in a big way, I'd say. The owner negotiated the yacht's usual charter rate to make the Oceana effort possible, and he agreed to let the nonprofit paint its logo on the side of the vessel, which will be known as the Oceana Latitude for the duration of the effort.

Celebrities Ted Danson and Morgan Freeman helped to announce the effort earlier this week in Mississippi, where Oceana Europe Executive Director Xavier Pastor said reports that the oil has disappeared have been grossly exaggerated to mislead the public. He quoted two new studies published this month that show nearly 80 percent of the estimated 200 million gallons of spilled oil is still present, and that oil from the spill has been found on the sea floor.

Kudos to the owner of Latitude for being a yacht owner with a true desire to do what's right by the sea. Latitude is expected to return to the charter market in early October, with bookings available this winter in the Bahamas and the Caribbean. If you're an eco-minded charter client, then I urge you to support this yacht by contacting management firm Neptune Group Yachting, or any reputable charter broker.