Accident area: off Nova Scotia, Canada, North Atlantic

On 10 November 1988, the oil tanker Odyssey, carrying 132,000 tonnes of North Sea crude oil, was travelling in the North Atlantic on its journey from Scotland to Canada, when it was caught in a storm, 700 miles off the Canadian coast. The Odyssey sent out a distress call which was received by Radio Valentia in Ireland and transferred to the Canadian Rescue Coordination Centre. The centre alerted the vessels in the area. A Russian weather ship, Passat, responded to the Odyssey’s distress call and was on site in less than an hour.

Once on site however, it was unable to approach the vessel as it was surrounded by ignited oil slicks. Before nightfall, a Canadian Coast Guard plane flew over the area and reported on the state of the wreck. It had broken in two; the stern section had sunk and the bow section appeared just at the surface. There was no trace of the 27 crew members. Following the incident, an oil slick 16 km long by 5 km wide drifted eastwards. The slick drifted out to sea and never reached the shore. The rough sea promoted natural dispersion. No response actions were taken. The Odyssey incident was the sixth largest oil spill at sea by an oil tanker.

Odyssey Oil Spill, 1988

Location: 700 nautical miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada Gallons: 43 million

How It Happened: In November 1988 the Liberian tanker Odyssey, virtually full to the brim with North Sea crude oil, broke in two and sunk in the North Atlantic 700 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. It also caught fire as it sunk.

The Cleanup: Because the incident took place so far from the coastline, the oil was expected to dissipate naturally, ergo no clean up at all. Cause of spill: explosion. On 10 November 1988 ,the oil tanker Odyssey, carrying 132 000 tonnes of North Sea crude oil, was travelling in the North Atlantic on its journey from Scotland to Canada, when it was caught in a storm, 700 miles off the Canadian coast. X—————————————————–X

Odyssey,which previously went by the name Oriental Phoenix, was an oil tanker in operation from 1971 to November 10, 1988, when an explosion caused it to sink in the North Atlantic off the coast of Canada.[1] The resulting spill remains one of the largest oil spills in world history. The tanker was 700 nautical miles (1,300 km; 810 mi) off the coast of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia when it sank and released 132,157 tons (43 million gallons) of oil into the ocean.[2] To this day, the spill remains the sixth-largest of all time.[3] By way of comparison, 4.3 times as much oil was spilled by the Odyssey as from the much more famous Exxon Valdez.


• 1 Sinking• 2 Environmental effects


Odyssey, built in 1971, was a 65,000-ton tanker operated by Polembros Shipping Ltd. of London, England, and registered in Liberia. On November 5, 1988, the tanker departed Sullom Voe Terminal in the Shetland Islands off Scotland, fully loaded with North Sea Brent Crude oil which was being transported to the Come By Chance Refinery at Come-by-Chance, Newfoundland and Labrador.[4] When the ship was about 1000 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland, a major North Atlantic storm arose, buffetting the ship with 25-foot (7.6 m) waves and 44-mile -per-hour winds.[5] In response, the ship sent out a distress signal and kept heading for shore.

However, when the ship was 700 nautical miles (1,300 km) off the coast of Nova Scotia, an explosion occurred on board, causing the ship to break into two and begin sinking. As the ship sank, a fire broke out on its stern section, causing the oil on board to catch fire.[6] All 27 crew members, 15 Greeks and 12 Hondurans, are presumed to have died during the incident.[4] Because of hazardous weather conditions, the Canadian Coast Guard could not immediately reach the spill and much of the oil burned up before the coast guard reached the ship.[7]

Environmental effects

In the immediate aftermath of the ship’s sinking, the oil spill covered an area of 3 miles (4.8 km) x 10 miles (16 km).[1] A much reduced amount of oil reached shore – in part because of the oil’s rapid combustion from the initial explosion and in part because currents carried the spill across the Atlantic, in the direction of England, giving the oil a significant amount of time to dissipate.[8] Because of this, no clean-up operation was mounted.[9]

The Advisory Committee on Marine Pollution of the Sea of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea published an analysis of the spill in their 1990 Marine Pollution Yearbook which noted that the spill likely had a significant effect on krill in the area, and through them, may have affected animals further up the food chain. X——————————————————–X How Do Oil Spills Damage the Environment?

Oil spills often result in both immediate and long-term environmental damage. Some of the environmental damage caused by an oil spill can last for decades after the spill occurs.

Here are some of the most notable environmental damages typically caused by oil spills:

Oil Spills Damage Beaches, Marshlands and Fragile Marine Ecosystems Oil spilled by damaged tankers, pipelines or offshore oil rigs coats everything it touches and becomes an unwelcome but long-term part of every ecosystem it enters. When an oil slick from a large oil spill reaches the beach, the oil coats and clings to every rock and grain of sand. If the oil washes into coastal marshes, mangrove forests or other wetlands, fibrous plants and grasses absorb the oil, which can damage the plants and make the whole area unsuitable as wildlife habitat.

When some of the oil eventually stops floating on the surface of the water and begins to sink into the marine environment, it can have the same kind of damaging effects on fragile underwater ecosystems, killing or contaminating many fish and smaller organisms that are essential links in the global food chain.

Despite massive clean-up efforts following the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, for example, a 2007 study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that 26, 000 gallons of oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill was still trapped in the sand along the Alaska shoreline. Scientists involved in the study determined that this residual oil was declining at a rate of less than 4 percent annually.

Oil Spills Kill BirdsOil-covered birds are practically a universal symbol of the environmental damage wreaked by oil spills. Any oil spill in the ocean is a death sentence for sea birds. Some species of shore birds may escape by relocating if they sense the danger in time, but sea birds that swim and dive for their food are sure to be covered in oil. Oil spills also damage nesting grounds, which can have serious long-term effects on entire species.

The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for example, occurred during prime mating and nesting season for many bird and marine species, and the long-term environmental consequences of that spill won’t be known for many years. Oil spills can even disrupt migratory patterns by contaminating areas where migrating birds normally stop.

Even a small amount of oil can be deadly to a bird. By coating the feathers, oil not only makes it impossible for birds to fly but also destroys their natural waterproofing and insulation, leaving them vulnerable to hypothermia or overheating. As the birds frantically try to preen their feathers to restore their natural protections they often swallow some of the oil, which can severely damage their internal organs and lead to death. The Exxon Valdez oil spill killed somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 seabirds, plus a number of shore birds and bald eagles.

Oil Spills Kill Marine MammalsOil spills frequently kill marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals and sea otters. The deadly damage can take several forms. The oil sometimes clogs the blow holes of whales and dolphins, making it impossible for the animals to breathe properly and disrupting their ability to communicate. Oil coats the fur of otters and seals, leaving them vulnerable to hypothermia.

Even when marine mammals escape the immediate effects, an oil spill can cause damage by contaminating their food supply. Marine mammals that eat fish or other food that has been exposed to an oil spill may be poisoned by the oil and die or can experience other problems.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill killed thousands of sea otters, hundreds of harbor seals, roughly two dozen killer whales and a dozen or more river otters. Even more troubling in some ways, in the years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill scientists noted higher death rates among sea otters and some other species affected by the oil spill, and stunted growth or other damage among other species.

Oil Spills Kill FishOil spills often take a deadly toll on fish, shellfish and other marine life, particularly if large numbers of fish eggs or larvae are exposed to the oil. The shrimp and oyster fisheries along the Louisiana coast were among the first casualties of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon offshore oil spill. Similarly, the Exxon Valdez oil spill destroyed billions of salmon and herring eggs. Those fisheries still have not recovered.

Oil Spills Destroy Wildlife Habitat and Breeding Grounds The long-term damage to various species, and to the habitat and nesting or breeding grounds those species depend upon for their survival, is one of the most far-reaching environmental effects caused by oil spills. Even many species that spend most of their lives at sea—such as various species of sea turtles—must come ashore to nest. Sea turtles can be harmed by oil they encounter in the water or on the beach where they lay their eggs, the eggs can be damaged by the oil and fail to develop properly, and newly hatched young turtles may be oiled as they scurry toward the ocean across an oily beach.

Ultimately, the severity of environmental damages caused by a particular oil spill depends on many factors, including the amount of the oil spilled, the type and weight of the oil, the location of the spill, the species of wildlife in the area, the timing or breeding cycles and seasonal migrations, and even the weather at sea during and immediately after the oil spill. But one thing never varies: oil spills are always bad news for the environment.