Mar - Apr
- Our watchkeeper informed Falmouth Coastguard about a vessel observed breaking the Lands End/Isles of Scilly Traffic Separation Scheme rules, by trying to enter the Southbound traffic corridor, partway down and at a 45-degree angle
The Wreck of the Torrey Canyon:This month (March), fifty years ago, one of the first-generation supertankers, the Torrey Canyon, ran aground (in broad daylight!) on the Seven Stones reef, between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly, spilling more than 100,000 tonnes of crude oil into the sea. The resultant oil spill generated an eight-mile long slick, which grew to 20 miles long within 24 hours and, later, affected large stretches of British and French coastlines.It remains Britain’s biggest oil spill at up to 117,000 tonnes, or 1,231-times more than the amount leaked by a North Sea platform last year.
In an effort to reduce the size of the oil spill, the British government decided to set the wreck on fire, by means of air strikes. Bombing continued over several days until the Torrey Canyon finally sank. Ultimately, a total of 161 bombs, 16 rockets, 1,500 tons of napalm and 44,500 litres of kerosene were used!
In total, hundreds of miles of coastline were affected by the oil spill, killing about 15,000 seabirds as well as causing enormous damage to marine life and the livelihoods of local people. However, although described as the UK’s worst environmental disaster, it taught invaluable lessons about the response to disasters (especially methods for containing and cleaning oil spills), resulted in the toughening up of shipping safety rules and finally led to changes in the way people viewed the environment. Nevertheless, ask any local what they remember most about the disaster and, inevitably, they’ll still vividly recall the awful choking stench of oil hanging in the air for days on end….
- Coastguard helicopter 924 contacted our watchkeeper on VHF channel 65 (the dedicated NCI Coastwatch channel) as part of an impromptu training exercise. Our watchkeeper stood ready to assist as the helicopter winched down a man and stretcher onto the rocks near the watch, and then successfully recovered both, before departing
- Our watchkeeper made urgent contact with Falmouth Coastguard after observing a cargo vessel, half a mile from Wolf Rock lighthouse, on an apparent collision course with it! FCG contacted the vessel which then altered course, accordingly. However, as can be seen from the track below, there wasn’t a lot of sea room to spare - this is definitely not considered a normal course for vessels sailing past the Wolf!
- More canine capers! As they came on watch, our watchkeeper observed three dogs running around on the cliffs near the watch, with no owner in sight. Later two of them were seen in the vicinity, again, definitely unaccompanied. One of them remained in the area so our watchkeeper contacted the police on 101 in case there were reports of anyone (or any dog!) missing A PCSO attended and ‘felt the collar’ of the miscreant (literally!), who was then ‘banged up’ in the watch An ‘identity parade’ failed because the suspect had no ID collar so arrangements were just being made to call out a dog warden with a chip reader when a passing dog walker said “Oh, that’s Bella, from the farm up the road”. The police were then able to return her home but, since she’s known as a habitual offender, her description is now posted in the watch, in case of further ‘transgressions’
Jan - Feb
- A man was observed walking his dog, off the lead, on the cliffside near the watch, in 40-50mph gale force wind! Since, by no means, could this be considered safe walking conditions, our watchkeeper kept an eye on the pair and was perturbed to later observe the dog leaping around the cliffside, with its owner nowhere in sight. This carried on for 15 minutes or so and, fearing the worst, our watchkeeper asked an off-duty colleague doing some maintenance work at the watch to go and investigate. The colleague did so…..and found the man sitting on a ledge just below the cliff-edge (presumably, sheltering from the wind), having a conversation on his mobile and totally oblivious to what his dog was doing! All’s well that ends well but, really, is the edge of a cliff in a 50mph gale the best place to have a phone conversation while your dog runs around free on the same cliff edge?
- Our watchkeeper observed a vessel making a very sharp turn into the Northbound lane of the Lands End/Isles of Scilly Traffic Separation Scheme. Whilst this manoeuvre didn’t contravene the rules of the TSS, it did serve to bring the vessel onto a 1-mile collision course with a vessel already in the Northbound lane! Our watchkeeper informed Falmouth Coastguard who monitored the situation and broadcast a suitable warning. Both vessels then manoeuvred in such a way that both had clear water.