Page 3 - The 'X' Chronciles Newspaper - June / July 2018 Edition
P. 3

The First Great Ecological Disaster                                                                                   3

          The First Great Ecological                     oil. Instead, the chalk made the oil sink to the time to be not a one-of-a-kind tragedy, but the
                                                         bottom where the tarlike clumps of oil damaged harbinger of a brand new, all-too-common, man
                          Disaster                       the living conditions for bottom-dwelling made catastrophe. []
                                                         organisms. Manual cleanup methods, like
                                                         bulldozing oily sand from the beaches, worked      WORLD’S GREATEST
          March 18, 1967.
                                                         better. But the main British response was truly
          The captain of the Torrey Canyon didn’t have  a
                                                         tragic. Hoping to disperse the oil, British                    HOAXES
          care in the world. His vast tanker was filled with
                                                         officials sprayed 10,000 tons of noxious
          Persian Gulf oil that would fetch a pretty price
                                                         detergent all over the oil-clogged waters.
          when he reached England. He allowed his                                                        THE COTTINGLEY FAIRIES
                                                         Ironically, the detergent proved to be much
          attention (and his ship) to drift, paying little
                                                         worse for the local flora and fauna than the oil
          attention to where he was headed. He was
                                                         itself. It killed off millions of plants and sea
          brought back to reality by a sharp crack and a
                                                         creatures, including a rare species of hermit crab
          series of alarming grinding noises: The Torrey
                                                         that hasn’t reappeared since.
          Canyon had smashed into rocks just off the
          British coast in the English Channel, ripping
          open more than half of the tanker’s bottom.
                                                         Finally, on March 28, 1967, the British decided
                                                         that it was impossible to tow the ship to shore
          What A Mess
                                                         and stem the ongoing leaks.  Their solution?
          The impact released 30,000 tons of oil almost
                                                         They would bomb the ship, sink it, and burn up
          immediately, which drifted up the channel and
                                                         the remaining oil, which had formed a 35-mile-
          slimed the coasts of England and France.
                                                         long, 20-mile-wide slick around the ruined
          Stunned and horrified, officials began soaking
                                                         tanker. For the next two days., the Royal Navy
          up the coastline oil with straw, but they couldn’t
                                                         Bombarded the vessel with thousands of pound
          settle on a method for stopping the flow of oil
                                                         s of napalm, sodium chlorate, and aviation fuel,
          from the damaged Torrey Canyon.
                                                         introducing still more contaminants into British
                 Within a week, approximately 146,600                                                    The Set-up: In 1917, two young girls, Elsie
                                                         waters as the stubborn vessel refused to sink.
          barrels of crude oil leaked out of the stranded                                                Wright and her cousin Frances Griffiths,
                                                         Only when the Torrey Canyon’s last reserves of
          vessel.  The oil settled on the coast of  West                                                 claimed that they played with fairies in the
                                                         oil had leaked into the water did the ship give up
          Cornwall, befouling about 100 miles of British                                                 garden of their home in Cottingley, England.
                                                         the ghost and go down.
          coastline. On March 26, 1967, the  Torrey                                                      They even produced photographs of the fairies
          Canyon’s strained structure finally gave way,                                                  to prove it.
                                                         The Aftereffects
          this time releasing a torrent of 366,500 barrels                                               The Impact:  The pictures made headlines
                                                         Coastline exposed to detergents sprayed on the  around the world and the story was believed by
          of oil. The slick drifted into the Bay of Biscay,
                                                         water took up to a decade to return to normal,  many, including Sherlock Holmes creator Sir
          where it would remain floating on the sea like a
                                                         while other  oil-stained coastline recovered and  Arthur Conan Doyle, who became an ardent
          giant Rorschach inkblot for the next two
                                                         reestablished a healthy biological community    supporter of the girls story.
                                                         within five to eight years. Approximately 25,000  It Was All a Hoax: But 55 years later the girls,
                                                         birds were killed by the disaster, as well as   now old women, admitted that it had all been a
          That Wasn’t The Worst Of It
                                                         untold numbers of sea creatures.                hoax and that they had cut pictures of fairies out
          All told, approximately 120,000 tons (or
                                                                 An investigative body assigned to       of a book and attached  them with paper clips to
          860,000 barrels) of crude oil were released. But  identify ways to minimize future oil tanker
          even worse than the oil slicks themselves were                                                 branches and shrubs before taking the
                                                         disasters recommended the use of double-hulled  photographs. Frances Griffiths expressed her
          the cleanup methods that were used - at the
                                                         ships and improved crew training.  And          amazement that anyone believed their story,
          time, virtually no one was experienced in
                                                         emergency personnel learned a lot about the     saying, “How on earth anyone could be so
          combating industrial disasters at sea.
                                                         proper response to such a massive disaster.     gullible as to believe that they were real has
                 The French cleanup crew used large
                                                         Good thing too - Torrey Canyon would prove in   always been a mystery to me.”
          quantities of chalk in an attempt to absorb the
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