An Oiled Arctic Shore


  • F.G. Barber



Beaches, Diesel fuels, Environmental impacts, Fuel oils, Intertidal zones, Marine oil spills, Marine petroleum transportation, Oil spill cleanup, Sea ice, Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Resolute


A portion of the fuel oil spilled into the harbour at Resolute, Northwest Territories, late in August 1970 went ashore there and, as yet, a firm arrangement concerning cleanup has not been made. The oiling occurred mainly on the upper portion of the intertidal zone, but not above high water .... The oil was believed to have been a mixture of diesel fuel and a heavier fuel, perhaps as heavy as a Bunker C type, but was generally "light" enough so that some penetration into the gravel occurred. ... Apparently the spill occurred from a tanker with a cargo comprising a variety of fuel oils which, during a hose or tank cleaning operation, discharged an oil waste onto the water surface at a position just off the tank farm. At the time (believed to be late on 24 August or early on 25 August), the harbour contained a considerable amount of ice, apparently as much as 8 to 9 tenths ice cover in some places, which in turn contained the oil and limited its movement to the immediate shore to the north and east. A portion of the ice became quite heavily stained with oil and some of this ice eventually moved out of the harbour with the northerly winds of 1 September. However, ablation of a portion of the stained ice occurred while it was grounded on the intertidal zone causing somewhat heavier oiling there and patchiness in the distribution of oil which was visually quite evident on 3 September .... By 1 October the intertidal zone was covered with the ice and only a light stain was visible at the high water line. Recent experience and experiment have demonstrated that ice cover can provide effective control of spilled oil. It seems that the containment at Resolute was also quite effective and would have permitted consideration of a number of cleanup options. For example, the oil might have been pumped into containers ashore or into a ship or barge, or pumped in discrete amounts to other areas of ice cover in a direction away from the tank farm and burned. ...