Dear fellow penguin and nature lovers,
I received a call today from Heather at The Ocean Foundation, alerting me to this urgent briefing tomorrow by Dr. David Guggenheim (otherwise known as the Ocean Doctor). Dr. Guggenheim just happened to be near Tristan da Cunha when the MS Oliva slammed into Nightingale Island on March 16th, spilling its fuel oil and oiling thousands of endangered Rockhopper penguins. Please see the press release below for more details. For those in the DC area, you can attend his talk in person at 10:00 am at the National Audubon Society 1150 Connecticut Ave #600. All others can watch the live webinar from 10:00 am to noon here: http://anymeeting.com/oceandoctor1
Urgent Briefing and Webinar on Oil Spill Disaster at Nightingale Island, Second Largest Population of Seabirds in the World
For those in Washington, DC, please attend this briefing live at 10am-12pm Eastern Time, Thursday March 31, 2011 : National Audubon Society, 1150 Connecticut Ave NW # 600, Washington, DC 20036-4132.
Background of Oil Spill Disaster at Nightingale Island
Nearby Tristan da Cunha, where the only settlement exists, has a population of less than 300. Dr. Guggenheim was aboard the Silversea vessel, “Prince Albert II” which was in the area when, for reasons still under investigation, the 75,300 ton Greek freighter “Oliva,” en route from Santos, Brazil to Singapore with a cargo of soya beans, ran aground onto the rocks at Nightingale Island’s northwestern corner on March 16th. By early the following morning, when the Prince Albert II arrived on scene, the “Oliva”’s captain reported water in the engine room and the ship had a significant fuel leak from its tanks carrying 300,000 gallon load of heavy marine oil.
The Prince Albert II’s expedition team — specially trained in the operation of Zodiacs in heavy weather — rescued the 12 crew still aboard the Oliva. The expedition team reported heavy oil conditions in the water. Less than 12 hours later, Oliva broke apart on the rocks and the stern section which housed the crew, rolled onto its side and into the waves.
Once ashore at Tristan de Cunha on March 19th, Dr. Guggenheim met with Trevor Glass, Director of Tristan da Cunha’s Department of Conservation. Mr. Glass reported that oil had completely encircled Nightingale Island and that many oiled penguins, albatross and other seabirds, along with subantarctic fur seals,were observed. The Tristan de Cunha island group represents the second largest concentration of sea birds in the world. Half of the world’s endangered Northern Rockhopper penguin population is found here. Nightingale Island holds more than 100,000 pairs of Northern Rockhopper penguins, 20,000 pairs of albatrosses including the yellow nose albatross, and 2,000,000 pairs of Broadbill prions. The island is also home to the highly-endangered Tristan Bunting. Only 50 pairs remain in the world, all of which are found on Nightingale Island. Over the past week, the oil has encircled nearby Inaccessible Island, a World Heritage Site. Today (March 28), Dr. Guggenheim spoke with Mr. Glass and learned that the situation remains dire, efforts now being hampered by 50-60 knot winds and a shortage of supplies. The Oliva continues to leak oil.
Wildlife rescue efforts are underway, however the remoteness of Tristan de Cunha, which has no landing strip, means that the nearest help is a 4-7 day boat ride away (from Cape Town, South Africa). Trevor’s team is not equipped to deal with an oil spill of this magnitude and outside assistance is desperately needed. The Prince Albert II was able to supply Mr. Glass’ team with parkas, gum boots and gloves before its departure, and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), based in Cape Town, is providing some assistance.
David E. Guggenheim, Ph.D., the “Ocean Doctor”
Senior Fellow, The Ocean Foundation
Director, Cuba Marine Research & Conservation Program