Ship Grounding and Oil Spill at Tristan da Cuhna


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Tristan da Cuhna defines the statement “middle of nowhere” at 1500 miles from African and South American continents. A remote island group right in the middle of the Southern Atlantic Ocean would seem unlikely spot for an oil spill. But alas, we humans are a persistent species.

Nightingale Island is a biodiversity hotspot and holds the endemic, i.e. not found anywhere else, Northern Rockhopper Penguin.  Several other species are also known to breed or take residence in the island group. This includes the Atlantic petrel that only breed among the islands of Tristan da Cuhna.  Nightingale also supports important populations of Atlantic Yellow-Nosed Albatrosses and Sooty Albatrosses. As mentioned by Ocean Doctor the neighboring Inaccessible Island is a World Heritage Site.

On March 16th, the Greek-owned bulk carrier MS Oliva ran aground on 4-km² Nightingale Island on its way from Santos, Brazil, to Singapore with a cargo of Soya beans. By the end of the day on the 18th, the MS Oliva had broken in half spilling her 64,000 ton bean cargo and 1,400 tonnes of heavy crude.  The last reports are that a 13km oil slick exists around the island and has now made it to Inaccessible Island.

From The Great Beyond

“The scene at Nightingale is dreadful as there is an oil slick around the entire island,” said Trevor Glass, the Tristan Conservation Officer, in a statement. “The Tristan Conservation Team are doing all that they can to clean up the penguins that are currently coming ashore. It is a disaster.”

Of course another worry is the risk of rats on the vessel colonizing the island and placing the island’s seabird colonies in jeopardy.

A heart wrenching set of photographs and updates exist at the Tristan da Cuhna website.

Dr. M (1618 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





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