The public did not pay much attention to oil spills until in 1967, when one supertanker, TORREY CANYON, ran aground on Pollard Rock off the coast of England. A lever left in the wrong position caused the helmsman to lose control of the ship. The captain tried to stop the ship but it was too late. Once a supertanker starts moving, it is difficult to stop and getting it to turn..
The TORREY CANYON plowed into Pollard Rock at a high speed. More than 500,000 barrels of oil spilled into the sea. This oil spill polluted the coast of England, France and Spain.
The TORREY CANYON disaster made headlines around the world. Legislation governing oil tankers carried oil was passed after the crash.
There have been several major oil spills after the EXXON VALDEZ spill and TORREY CANYON disaster.
One of the two largest oil spills in history occurred in 1979 which did not involved an oil tanker. The IXTOC 1 oil well, located in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico accidentally sank its drill into an underwater oil reservoir. 140 million gallons of oil came bursting into the gulf.
Another equally large spill occurred in 1991. During the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi army dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil from a loading dock in Kuwait into the Persian gulf. They also dumped contents of several supertankers into the gulf. This oil spill was comparable to the IXTOC 1 disaster and dwarf all other oil spills in history.
The estimates of the size of the spill turned out to be wrong. It was a nasty oil spill because it was deliberately done and Iraqi soldiers later set fire to a portion of the oil slick.
England was struck again by oil diaster in 1979. The supertanekr AMOCO CADIZ ran aground in the English Channel. Nearly 70 million gallons of oil were dumped into the waters, six times more than the EXXON VALDEX spill.
In 1969, there was an oil well blowout similar to IXTON 1. PLATFORM A in the Santa Barbara (California) Channel released four million tons of oil into the water.
Another major spills took place in 1957 when TAMPICO MARU crashed into the coast of Mexico. It released 2.7 million gallons of oil into the sea.
In 22 July 1991, a Japanese fish-processing ship collided with a Chinese freighter off the coast of Washington, in the northwestern United States. One person was killed and 100,000 gallons of oil poured into the Pacific Ocean.
Every oil spill is a potential disaster. The EXXON VALDEZ and AMOCO CADIZ oil spills were as large as the IXTOC 1 and the PERSIAN GULF spills. What matters in an oil spill is what happens after it is spilled. It is in the aftermath of an oil spill that the real disaster occurs.
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