1978 – The Amoco Cadiz oil spill

The Amoco Cadiz was a tanker of the VLCC (very large crude carrier) class, which ran aground on Portsall Rocks, off the coast of Brittany, France, in the early hours of March 16, 1978 after encountering Force 10 winds and high seas in the English Channel. At the time, the ship was carrying a quantity of over 1.6 million barrels of oil (and a barrel is 42 US gallons), all of which spilled out into the ocean as the storm battered the Cadiz so hard that she broke into three pieces. There was no loss of human life during the ship’s demise, but the oil spill was catastrophic.

The toll of the oil on the local marine life – and local in this case means in the oceans off more than 200 miles of Atlantic coastline – was enormous. More than 20,000 seabirds and over a million molluscs and fish were recorded as killed (and these are only the bodies that washed up on the shores somewhere – many more would not have made it that far). In addition, the physical damage to beaches and coasts was extreme, while the isolated location and bad weather made it the spill hard to clean up before more damage was done. In some of the affected locations, the impact of the spill is still plainly visible today, nearly forty years later.

Referenced in:
Amoco Cadiz — Speedy J
The Oil Song 2010 — Steve Forbert