Torrey Canyon 1967
Widely regarded as the world’s first major marine oil spill, the Torrey Canyon incident began on 18 March 1967 when the ship, with a capacity of 120,000 tonnes, struck Pollard’s Rock between the Cornish coastline and the Isle of Scilly. A catalogue of errors by the captain and crew were later exposed.
A slick formed measuring 270 square miles, killing many thousands of seabirds and polluting hundreds of miles of coastline around Cornwall and France. This damage was contributed to by inappropriate response which included use of early dispersants, untested for toxicity and the decision to set fire to the remaining oil using aerial bombing and eventually napalm.
While the Torrey Canyon left a devastating environmental impact, it also resulted in the UK becoming a world leader in marine pollution response.