Oil floats on water

We were talking today about this and that over lunch in the canteen of a deserted factory and Kevin Costner’s Waterworld movie came up, a much maligned film which it turned out we all had a soft spot for. The star of the movie was the huge supertanker set, which was a mock up of the Exxon Valdez, a real and well known ship with a bit of a history.
This started wee memory wheels turning, and three names immediately came to mind including accompanying images that have been pressed onto my mind forever from the little black and white telly we had in the 70’s.
The recent BP oil armageddon across the Atlantic is nothing new, and wherever the blame for that lies, the desperation for oil, the hunger for profit, the stupidity of basing a world economy on a finite resource that we burn rather than use as a near inexhaustible construction material will always lead to mistakes, cut corners and crossed fingers while fine lines are swayed over from a height.
Demand creates risk, we’re all to blame.

When I saw the incidents of the past I worried deeply for the oil-soaked birds and the black beaches. The images of stricken, broken, storm lashed ships were powerful and fearful. The same is still true today when I look at the old shaky and grainy footage, but somehow high quality TV coverage and the omnipresent on-site and inon-screen presenter (in new outdoor gear) often diminishes reporting of disasters to just another news “item”.
The most recent disasters around the world have been caught by the people involved on their phones and cameras and while we might wonder about the sense of filming something that maybe about to take your life away, these images are the ones that affect me in the same way as the ones I saw in my childhood. I think this is important, disasters affect people not just places and news presentation slickness diminishes that distinction.

The Exxon Valdez dumped its oil into the sea after running aground in Alaska in ’89 causing environmental mayhem. It’s still floating, after about ten re-namings, as an ore carrier. I love that name changing thing, like changing Windscale to Sellafield, folk will instantly forget about Homer Simpson-esque nuclear safety procedures. Apparently.

The Amoco Cadiz broke on the rocks of the French coast in ’78. Money sent it to sea, keeping the money stopped them seeking help immediately when the ship got into difficulties in evil weather and mechanical difficulties in case they got labelled as salvage and lost their profit, and that was what sunk it.
The entire cargo was lost to the sea and coast and haunted both for years. The French depth-charged the remains to make damned sure there were no surprises left.

It happened just before I was born, but footage of the wreck seemed to be a constant in the early 70s. Wrecked off Cornwall in ’67 was the Torrey Canyon.
Stupidity grounded it, and life was lost trying to save it. The oil spill was horrendous and the containment and treatment was desperate and unsuccessful. The Royal Navy and the RAF sent ships and planes against it, bombing the shit out of it and then napalming it to try and burn off the oil.
Lessons on how to cope with a similar disaster were learned, but none on how to prevent another disaster seem to have been thought of.

Three names that have stuck with me. Thanks to the internet for the photies.

8 thoughts on “Oil floats on water

  1. Did you see Britain’s Secret Seas the other week? they dived down to the Torrey Canyon and it was teeming with plants and life. And the odd bomb casing. I wasn’t exactly sentient to remember it but I remember a holiday in Cornwall years later where some of the beaches still had oil residue on them.

  2. One notable omission (for those in northern regions) is the Braer, which foundered off Shetland in 1993. It’s a bit corny to say I was there, but I was there(ish).

    A month of horrendous weather (even by Shetland standards, where ‘Cairngorm plateau’ windspeeds are the norm) dispersed the oil, so the expected environment catastrophe was largely avoided.

    The Braer too could have been avoided (similar wrangles over salavage delayed a tow line being put across it from a large oil platform supply vessel).

    It also led to the establishement of four emergency tugs stationed permanently in UK waters explicitly to stop future tanker incidents…

    …the same four tugs that the Con/Dems now intend to abolish in an effort to save £12 million a year.

    Hmm – I wonder what the clean up and compensation cost of another supertanker disaster would be?

  3. Beth I’m going to see if I get that on catch-up!

    Just been talking about the Braer this morning with Jimmy. I remember than one vividly too.
    Now apparebntly a popular dive site apparently. The passaage of time changes everything.
    The Argean Sea was another that came up. It burned with a smoke plume like a volcano.

    It’s frightening stuff.

  4. The most frightening thing is the decision to cut the emergency tugs.

    It’s as sensible as like selling your ice axe before heading off for a round of the Mamores in winter

  5. As ever, it comes down to money.
    When oil/hydrocarbons become expensive enough then investment and research into alternatives becomes ‘viable’. And that is happening now in a big way.
    Perhaps we should be grateful that oil is $110 a barrel and will probably double in the next 5 years or so.
    Of course sometimes the alternatives are not always palatable. Nuclear fission ? Windfarms?
    Also the high price encourages energy efficiency which is where the real gains lay.
    Perhaps though you should think of retraining as an electrical heating engineer as, in order to meet our CO2 targets, there is going to be a mass migration to electric heating over the next twenty years.

  6. This goverment’s great, scrap the Ark Royal then invade north Africa and have to fly the planes in from Europe (not a comment on what they’re doing, just the logistics!). When they scrap the tugs this island of ours will probably float off into the middle of the Atlantic with nothing left to stop it.

    The heating point is something very important, knowing that I’m part of the chain of events keeps me right, as lame as it sounds doing a good job, doing my sums right makes an installation more efficcent and that helps me justify what I do to myself. Those one-size-fits-all boiler and radiator packs should be banned, it’s just a bargain way to innefficiency.
    I’ve alway done electric heating, it’s only the last few years that the boilers have become small and reliable enough that they’re a really vialble alternative for domestic use. Older models all rotted from the inside after a few years, even with water treatment.
    The trade will change for sure, but that’s a good thing.

  7. Thinking about it, there will be 20 million gas boiler installations to remove. So plenty of work either way.
    I’m actually quite optimistic about our energy future. There is plenty of energy available from tidal/solar/wind/hydro and probably by 2030 nuclear fusion given recent breakthroughs. It’s just about giving people enough incentive to do the research and harness it.
    2nd generation biofuels will be made from algae/seaweed/certain types of waste plants and won’t impact food production.
    Cars have got a lot more fuel efficient in the last few years And industry is becoming a lot more energy efficient as it’s such a big overhead

  8. Aye, I don’t think positive message comes through enough.
    If I was a conspiracy theorist I’d say it’s part of a plan to keep us depressed and easaier to govern.

    People are clever, we’ll find a way.

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