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Where Did The First Major Oil Spill Occur?

fact-finder | Student

The first major oil spill occurred during World War II (1939-45), between January and June of 1942. German U-boat attacks on tankers off the East Coast of the United States spilled 590,000 tons of oil.

The first major commercial oil spill occurred on March 18, 1967, when the tanker Torrey Canyon ran aground on the Seven Stones Shoal off the coast of Cornwall, England. The tanker spilled 830,000 barrels (119,000 tons) of Kuwaiti oil into the sea.

On January 25, 1991, during the Gulf War, almost 1.5 million tons of oil was deliberately dumped from Sea Island into the Persian Gulf. Another major spill occurred in Russia in October 1994, in the Komi region of the Arctic. The size of that spill was reported to be as much as 2 million barrels (286,000 tons).

Spills such as the aforementioned were far larger than the much-publicized Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. That spill, caused by the grounding of a tanker on the coast of Alaska, released 35,000 tons of oil into the sea and was the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Date Cause Thousands tons spilled
1/42-6/42 German U-boat attacks on tankers off the East Coast of U.S. during World War II. 590
3/18/67 Tanker Torrey Canyon grounds off Land's End in the English Channel. 119
Date Cause Thousands tons spilled
3/20/70 Tanker Othello collides with another ship in Tralhavet Bay, Sweden. 60-100
12/19/72 Tanker Sea Star collides with another ship in Gulf of Oman. 115
5/12/76 Urquiola grounds at La Coruna, Spain 100
3/16/78 Tanker Amoco Cadiz grounds off Northwest France. 223
6/3/79 Itox 1 oil well blows in southern Gulf of Mexico. 600
7/79 Tankers Atlantic Express and Aegean Captain collide off Trinidad and Tobago. 300
2/19/83 Blowout in Norwuz oil field in the Persian Gulf. 600
8/6/83 Fire aboard Castillo de Beliver off Cape Town, South Africa. 250
1/25/91 Iraq begins deliberately dumping oil into Persian Gulf from Sea Island, Kuwait. 1,450

Sources: Franck, Irene. The Green Encyclopedia, pp. 220-21; Miller, E. Willard, and Ruby M. Miller. Environmental Hazards: Toxic Waste and Hazardous Material, p. 96; Oil and Gas Journal, vol. 92 (April 11, 1994), pp. 107-8; vol. 92 (October 31, 1994), p. 23 The Universal Almanac 1992, p. 537.