Shipwrecked Explorer Leaks Potentially Damaging Oil

November 28, 2007
The Chilean navy, which assisted in the Antarctic evacuation of passengers and crew from G.A.P. Adventure's Explorer last week, is now scrambling to clean up environmental damage left behind by the sunken ship, Reuters reports.

A navy icebreaker was dispatched to the area yesterday to disperse a diesel fuel slick; the slick is about 590 by 66 ft. in size, according to media reports. Explorer is currently resting on the ocean floor at a depth of 4,921 ft.

"Considering the depth, the presence of ice, the effect of the wind and the currents and the absence of technology to contain spills on open seas -- and at depths of more than 1,000 meters (about 3280 ft.), it is only viable to disperse the slick mechanically," the Chilean navy said in a statement.

At this point, the severity of the spill and its effect on Antarctica's ecology and wildlife is unknown. However, the floating icebergs in Antarctica are important habitats for penguins and sea birds, and the Indo-Asian News Service has reported that there is contamination.

In related news, Argentinean Environment Secretary Romina Picolotti told media outlets Tuesday that the Argentine government is considering moves to limit Antarctic tourism.

We'll keep you posted.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor