The grounding in 1967 of the supertanker Torrey Canyon on protruding granite rocks near the Scilly Isles off the southwest coast of England introduced the world to a new hazard: immense oil spills , especially from supertankers. It exposed current technology's inability to handle such massive quantities of spilled oil and the need for ship design that would help prevent them.
Although oil spills are tragic, each incident provides insight into the progress being made to prevent them. The Torrey Canyon accident pointed out needed research in the area of oil spills. These include the efficacy of storm waves, oil-consuming microbes , and time to heal the environment .
This wreck demonstrated the inadequacies of existing international marine law, especially questions of responsibility and liability. The international aspects of the Torrey Canyon case were complex. This American-owned vessel was registered in Liberia, sailed with a crew of mixed nationals, and grounded in United Kingdom waters, also contaminating the Brittany coast of France. The British government set precedent by ordering the bombing of the wreck in a futile effort to torch the remaining oil.
Efforts to salvage the spilled oil quickly proved useless, as the escaping oil rapidly thinned and became widespread. It was later learned that the most volatile parts of the oil evaporated within several days. Fortunately, this amounted to a large percentage of the total spill.
A number of crucial lessons were learned as a result of abatement efforts. Dispersants, which break the oil into tiny droplets, were inadequate and applied too little and too late. Once "mousse" (the term for water encased in the oil) forms under wave action, little can be done to break up this ecologically hazardous muck. One of the first actions in response to the 1993 grounding of the Braer near the Shetland Islands was the aerial spraying of dispersants on the rapidly thinning oil.
Use of detergents on the intertidal zone of England's resort beaches proved deadly to grazing organisms. The most effective treatment of oil-tainted water and beaches was discovered to be nature's storm action combined with metabolic breakdown by microorganisms . Efforts to clean oiled seabirds proved largely futile, as they succumbed to hypothermia, stress, and poisoning from ingested oil.
The French discovered an effective emergency tactic to lessen the damage. They used straw and other absorbent materials to sop up the incoming oil. They also protected a 100-year-old research section at Roscoff by making a long boom out of burlap stuffed with straw and wood cuttings, an operation dubbed "Big Sausage." To compensate for inadequate anchoring, students physically held the boom in place while the tide rolled in, with new troops periodically relieving those chilled in the cold water.
[Nathan H. Meleen ]
Cowan, E. Oil and Water: The Torrey Canyon Disaster. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1968.
Petrow, R. In the Wake of Torrey Canyon. New York: David McKay, 1968.
Williams, A. S. Saving Oiled Seabirds. Rev. ed. Washington, DC: American Petroleum Institute, 1987.
Walsh, J. "Pollution: The Wake of the Torrey Canyon. Science 160 (April 12, 1968): 167–169.
Office of Technology Assessment. Coping With Oiled Environments. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989.
"Torrey Canyon." Environmental Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/torrey-canyon
"Torrey Canyon." Environmental Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/torrey-canyon
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.
"Torrey Canyon." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/torrey-canyon
"Torrey Canyon." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved February 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/torrey-canyon