18 March 1967


Seven Stones Reef – between the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall

Known for

The Torrey Canyon was an oil tanker (ship) that was travelling from the Middle East to Wales in March 1967. It hit rocks between the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall and spilt thousands of tons of oil into the sea. Many birds and other sea creatures were killed. At the time, it was the worst pollution incident of its kind.

An Torrey Canyon o tanker oyl (gorhel) esa ow viajya dhyworth an Est Kres dhe Gembra mis-Meurth 1967. Ev a weskis kerrek yntra Syllan ha Kernow ha skollya milyow a donasow a oyl a-berth y’n mor. Lies edhen ha kreatur aral a’n mor a veu ledhys. Y’n prys na yth o an gwettha hwarvos a dhefolyans a’y eghen.

Illustration of Torrey Canyon Oil Spill
Illustration by Kira Gardner
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Hit the rocks

On 18th March 1967, the Torrey Canyon struck the Seven Stones reef between the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall. The tanker was carrying around 100,000 tons of crude oil. The crew of the tanker were rescued by lifeboat and helicopter.

Miles of oil

As the tanker broke up on the Seven Stones reef, oil spilled into the sea creating a slick many miles long. The UK military tried to clear up the oil by dropping bombs on the ship. They also attempted to burn the oil at sea using jet fuel. The Navy tried using detergents, but we now know that this made the oil spill worse for the environment.

Many beaches affected

Oil washed ashore along many miles of Cornwall’s coast. The worst affected beaches were those in Mount’s Bay in west Cornwall, where the oil was several centimetres thick. Oil also polluted beaches along the south coast of England, the Channel Islands, Brittany and Normandy in France.

Environmental disaster

The oil spill may have killed as many as 20,000 sea birds. Many other sea creatures were also affected by the pollution. At the time, it was the worst pollution incident of its kind. As a result of the disaster, people and governments around the world began to take steps to better protect the environment.

Did you know?

Although many beaches in west Cornwall were affected, only 15% of the oil from the Torrey Canyon washed ashore in Cornwall. The wind and currents washed much more oil onto the coast of Brittany.



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