Irving Whale goes down
Environmentalists dubbed it a ticking time bomb, and nobody knew when — or if — the Irving Whale oil barge would release its dangerous cargo. Toxic discoveries, legal delays and spiralling costs would all ensue before the Irving Whale saw the light of day — 26 years after sinking off Prince Edward Island in 1970.
Awareness of oil spills and the damage they can cause is already high -- just days earlier, federal Transport Minister Don Jamieson received a report on the February 1970 sinking of the Arrow, which dumped 9,000 tonnes of oil into the ocean off Cape Breton. Jamieson has ordered an immediate cleanup of the Irving Whale site, and a nearby military base is stocked with bales of peat moss, which soaks up oil on the ocean's surface.
• Built in 1966, the Irving Whale was an oil supply barge serving the coastal areas of Atlantic Canada. It was about as big as a hockey rink and was laden with about 4,200 tonnes (about five million litres) of heavy bunker C fuel oil.
• After the Irving Whale sank, an oil slick covered an area of about 650 square kilometres. Divers secured the hatches to prevent the leakage of more oil, which was already slowing because the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence had made it congeal.
• The Irving Whale was owned by Irving Oil, a gigantic oil company and shipbuilder based in Fredericton, N.B. Founder K.C. Irving said the company was monitoring the situation "like a cat on a mouse" and, when asked who was responsible for the cleanup, said he hoped there would be nothing to clean up.
• When the federal government approached Irving Oil just days later to recoup over three million dollars in cleanup costs, Irving said that because the event had happened beyond Canada's 12-mile territorial zone, the company was not subject to Canadian jurisdiction. In fact, the law was on its side, rendering the government powerless and prompting new legislation aimed at bettering government control over oil pollution.
• Irving Oil was compensated for the loss by its insurance company, which in turn made no effort to recover the barge or its cargo.
• Environment Canada has predicted that "Based on current levels of tanker traffic, Canada can expect over 100 small oil spills, about 10 moderate spills and at least one major spill offshore each year. A catastrophic spill (over 10,000 tonnes) may occur once every 15 years."
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Sept. 10, 1970
Reporter: Bill Curtis
Last updated: November 6, 2014
Page consulted on November 6, 2014
All Clips from this Topic
Captain Sven Madsen surveys the damage as cleanup efforts begin.
A Prince Edward Island MP argues the Irving Whale should be raised due...
Residents of the islands near the site of the Irving Whale report find...
Fishermen and environmentalists aren't the only ones who worry what co...
Concerns about its potential for pollution prompt the government to sa...
Irving Oil discloses the presence of toxic PCBs on the Irving Whale, j...
Residents are wondering what to do with the 100,000 bags of PCB-laden ...
Diagrams show just how the Irving Whale was hoisted up.
A court injunction is granted due to the threat of toxic PCBs.
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The Canadian Coast Guard and its team of workers are nearly ready to f...
The Irving Whale is brought to the surface and is found to be in remar...
Environmentalists dubbed it a ticking time bomb, and nobody knew when ...