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Accepted Paper:

A dark environmental heritage? An environmental history of oil accidents and spills in the Baltic Sea prior to Torrey Canyon  
Simo Laakkonen (University of Turku)

Paper short abstract:

Were there damaging marine oil accidents or spills prior to Torrey Canyon? Surprisingly this question has been hardly addressed. This paper presents oil accidents and spills in the northern Baltic Sea from the end of WWII until the late 1960s. Marine oil pollution has a long and dark history.

Paper long abstract:

S/S Torrey Canyon, one of the first supertankers in the world, ran aground off the coast of Cornwall, England in March 1967. Ever since, her disaster has repeatedly been named as the ‘Big Bang’ of oil pollution in marine areas. But were there damaging oil accidents or spills prior to Torrey Canyon? Surprisingly this question has been hardly addressed. Historical studies on oil related environmental problems have focused exclusively on coastal cities or land operations. In this paper, the focus will be on the northern Baltic Sea, which is a good place to begin research into the existence of early oil accidents and spills, because it has been an exceptionally challenging shipping area due to its shallow waters, numerous islands and reefs, and difficult winter conditions. This study is, in all likelihood, the first in the world to systematically study the environmental history of early oil accidents and spills. It indicates that awareness of marine oil accidents and spills began to develop in the north Baltic at the end on the 1940s and began to significantly strengthen at the end of the 1950s and throughout the 1960s when oil pollution incidents began to continually appear on the frontpages of local and national papers as well as television broadcasts. The prevailing understanding that the Torrey Canyon disaster was the genesis of oil accidents is highly questionable, if not totally wrong.

Panel Ene07
The Petroleum Century and the Transformation of Global Landscapes
  Session 1 Thursday 22 August, 2024, -