Engineers plan giant underwater dome to combat Gulf oil spill

Here's your mad scientist idea of the day: engineers at BP are looking into designing a giant underwater dome that could be lowered over the out-of-control oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico right now. The dome would block the spread of oil, as well as let it be sucked up.

Apparently, it's not the first time something like this has been proposed, either, according to the Wall Street Journal:

BP is also looking into lowering a dome over the leak to suck up the oil, which company officials think could be in place in two weeks. This was first tried briefly in 1979, about five months after the big spill ever at the Ixtoc well off the coast of Mexico. The dome was abandoned after two months, when it was damaged in rough seas.

Underwater domes have been used to combat smaller spills, but never at the depth engineers are faced with now, which is some 5,000 feet under the water. Either way, it doesn't look like it'll come soon enough to stop the oil reaching the coast — which is estimated to happen in a number of days — though anything that stops the leak at this point is a godsend for the Gulf.

Wall Street Journal and BP, via Inhabitat