My life, in oil-spills and shipwrecks

by Diana Studer 
 - gardening for biodiversity

Chapter 1 - The Seafarer 

Home, where I was born, and gardened for 20 years, is Camps Bay. Fairest Cape, but also cape of storms, with busy shipping lanes. Our images of disasters in nature, were painted by the TV journalist Charl Pauw. The Seafarer came aground, just off the Sea Point shore. It was a wild wintry 30th June 1966, which we remember because a sister was married on That Day.

 Chapter 2 - Sandy Bay scrap metal aground 

When the Ungardener joined my life he remembers the Romelia and the Antipolis. Ships that were being towed to the East to be scrapped. In fierce storms in 1977 the tow-rope broke. The Antipolis went aground at Oudekraal, and the Romelia at Sandy Bay (both between Camps Bay and Hout Bay). The sea is very deep there. We used to go and watch week by week, as the ship broke up. And half a ship, broke free, and disappeared below the water, to become an artificial reef for sea life. 

Video high seas on the North Atlantic coast of Spain

 Chapter 3 - Exxon Valdez 

Alaska 1989.  This I remember because of the sorrow of the impact on wildlife, in what once was a pristine environment. Then following the slow recovery. Until global weirding makes drilling for oil a fresh Arctic threat today! 25 years later 'The herring of Prince William Sound still have not recovered'

 Chapter 4 - Oiled penguins and SANCCOB 

June 2000 Cape Town had its worst oil-spill ever. We have efficient marine salvage companies, who would pump off as much as possible, between storms. Before the ship broke up, or to make it lighter so it could be towed in for repairs. A link from Microbial Lab - with pictures of the Gulf of Mexico 2010, which are seared in my mind’s eye, triggered this post. 

Video Plugin hybrid car would reduce our use of fossil fuel

Oil spills mean death to seabirds. With (fossil) oiled feathers they cannot swim. Cannot regulate their body temperature. Preening the oil pollution off, means they don’t eat. Because we are so ‘close’ to Antarctica we have penguins. SANCCOB collects or receives oiled birds. Cleans them, force-feeds them, and cares for them. Until they can eat, and swim again. Sometimes the cleaned birds are taken to Port Elizabeth, in the hope that by the time they swim home, the oil slick will have dispersed. 

 Chapter 5 - Peak Oil 

I read a novel about Peak Oil. Last Light by Alex Scarrow. In that book all oil based transport was stopped, no oil. Then the volcano in Iceland blew - and the world tipped into what felt like a WWII situation. (My NZ grandmother came to visit South Africa, then had to stay, for the duration). No flights. 

Alex Scarrow comment
Alex Scarrow comment

Originally published in May 2010 when I was delighted to draw a comment from the book's author. Since I've moved the post from Elephant's Eye his comment must live on as a screenshot. 

 Chapter 6 - Nightingale Island 

Nightingale Island. Pristine paradise for birds in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. Miles from anywhere. 

Nightingale Island South Atlantic Ocean
Nightingale Island
South Atlantic Ocean

A Brazilian tanker ran aground on 16th March 2011. Shed its bunker oil. Contaminated endangered Northern rockhopper penguins. At the worst time of their year when they are emaciated after moulting.

Words by Diana Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay  

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  1. You are in a spot that seems to get more than your fair share of shipwrecks and oil disasters. So sad when we have these catastrophes with oil...poor creatures.

  2. I can't speculate whether or not oil has reached peak production, but sadly I believe oil spills will never will be a top issue because of the revenue oil generates. Very thought-provoking posting, Diana.