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Impacts of the Irving Whale Barge Sinking

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 2112 words Published: 18th May 2020

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The Irving whale barge sank on 7th September 1970, in the Gulf of St Lawrence, North of Prince Edward Islands, Canada. The barge contain 4200 tonnes od Bunker C and several thousand litres of PCB’s(poly- chlorinated biphenyls) which was a fluid used in heating system of the barge. (Science Direct, n.d.)



1)     BUNKER C (Fuel No.6)  (Canada, 1999)

4200 Long Tons in the barge

  • Viscosity 45030 mPa at 15°C
  • Density 0.96 to 1.04g/cm3 at 15°C
  • Pour point 5 to 15°C
  • Specific Gravity 5-15
  • Solubility 1 to 5ppm
  • Flash point >100°C (Canada E. , 1999)


6800 Litres (80% Polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs) and 20% Chlorobenzenes) (Canada G. o., 1996)

  • PCBs and Chlorobenzenes are environmental pollutant.
  • PCBs are tends to persist in the environment and enter food chain.
  • High exposure to PCBs can effect fertility, child development, and immune system and possibly increase risk of certain cancer. (Greenfacts, 2001)
  • Chlorobenzenes does not bind with soil, so it is expected to accumulate in fish and food products. (Greenfacts, 2001)


Oil can flow to Prince Edward island, Magdalen Island and Cape Breton Island through the Gulf of Saint Lawrence as the net effect of the wind and current are towards south and southeast.

(Collins, 1993)


The Irving whale when travelling along the sea route to its destination can cover various sensitive areas along Price Edward Islands, Magdalen Islands and areas along the portions of New Brunswick and Cape Breton islands. This includes beaches, fisheries, National parks and various other ecological sensitive areas. (CBC Digital Archives, 1970)

Prince Edward Islands

There are numerous ecological areas towards the Gulf of St. Lawrence which could be effected by an oil spill. This includes Greenwich beach, Blooming point beach, North Rustico Beach, Cavendish beach PEI National Park, Prince Edward Island National Park, Cabot Beach Provincial Park etc. Malpeque Bay is an area with exotic birds such as black ducks, blue winged teal, green winged teal and various other sea creatures. (CBC Digital Archives, 1970).

Magdalen Islands

Magdalen Island is a frequently visited tourist area due to its amazing variety of avian species, this can be severely effected if an oil spill occurs. The shorelines in this small island could be potentially washed up by oil .If the spill occurs, it could create serious problems to the inhabitants in the island. (CBC Digital Archives, 1995).



            No action scenario

  1. The barge could sink and cause an underwater oil spill and the oil leaked from the barge can create oil slicks of large sizes. The slick can be carried by wind and ocean currents to the sensitivity areas which can potentially affect the people, plants and animals in the area. Diverse biological resources must be given special preference (migratory birds and marine mammals) (environment Canada, 2006).
  2. The quantity of oil released from the barge after sinking is unpredictable. It could occur at a fairly constant rate in small quantities for long periods of time (years).
  3. The oil in the water can easily enter the food chain (starting with consumption by marine animals).
  4. The spill if left untreated can have a significant effect on the tourism and fishery industy.it could also lead to the loss of livelihood for various people working in these sector.





  • Safety of workers on the barge is important, so technical and safety training must be made mandatory for the workers.
  • Residents living near the shore of the initial spill must be informed (people in east cost of Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island).
  • Migratory birds in Magdalen Island are vulnerable to toxicity of the oil, so it makes the top priority in our list. In-situ burning must be avoided near these areas. (tourisme iles de la madeleine, n.d.)
  • Shoreline ecology must be protected such as Crabs and Lobster found in Prince Edward Island, Magdalen Island and Cape Breton Island.
  • Dispersants must be avoided since it is banned by the Government of Canada.
  • In-situ burning must be avoided as it causes air pollution.
  • Tourist spots and beaches on the west coast of Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island need to be protected by containment booms and removed manually.



Before the spill

  1. Proper weather forecasting can be done before the setting sail to the destination.
  2. Proper maintenance and inspection operations must be done to ensure that the vessel/barge is in proper condition.
  3. Sea water removal systems can be installed into barges for safety.
  4. The amount of oil and hazardous fluid (PCB) in the barge can be reduced.
  5. The hatches in the barge can be made more secured using better material and surveillance.
  6. The sea route must be made as far as possible from the sensitive resources
  7. Wide range of data regarding the sensitive environment near the ship route must be collected.

After the spill (Response Strategy)

  1. Proper inspection of the spill site and the barge using visual surveillance, passive microwave sensors and infrared detectors.
  2. Deploying of booms in the possible impact areas and other sensitive areas.
  3. The hatches and leaks (if any) in the barge must be secured immediately.
  4. Taking up the barge from the sea as soon as possible to avoid the loss of containment
  5. Isolation and removal of PCB’S after the barge is safely lifted.
  6. The people in the effected areas must be made aware of the consequences and awareness programs must be conducted.
  7. Compensation must be given to the people who have lost their livelihood due to the spills (tourism and fishery).

Even if suitable response strategies and precautionary methods are adopted there is always a possibility for the spill to occur. And if the spill occurs the clean up techniques can only work to a particular extend to remove the oil which has washed into the shorelines and spread across the sea in the form of sheen and slicks.

Oil recovery from water

Since the fuel we deal here are Bunker c there are only few techniques which we can use to recover the oil from water, such as

In case of Skimmers,

      Large belt Oleophilic skimmers-3 to 10 m3/hr

recovery rate

      Brush Oleophilic skimmers- 0.5 to 2 m3/hr

recovery rate

      Large weir skimmers- 3 to 5 m3/hr

recovery rate

      Paddle conveyer- 1 to 5 m3/hr

recovery rate

In case of Sorbents,

      Polyurethane pads

      Polyethylene pads

      Polyester pads

      Collagen sponge

      Vegetable fibre

Even use of excavating equipment like Backhoe could be used.

Shoreline clean-up

Once if Bunker c reaches any nearby shores the few clean-up methods are

      Manual removal

This use mainly the human resource where people with the help of shovels, rakes, trowels, buckets, sorbent pads or gloved hands removes the Bunker c. The safety of everyone should not be compromised, they should wear proper PPE’s.

      Mechanical removal

With the help of existing technology we can use machines such as, larger earth moving equipment or specially designed oil removal equipment.

      Vacuums

Vacuum units needed to be used to clean the oil particles lying on the shore.


To dispose of the Bunker c which we have gathered after the clean-up techniques, the only affective methods are either store the materials with sufficient controls and safety for the future generation to develop any methods or to bury in the ground far away from any ecological habitat so that it won’t have any affects on the environment.


  • (n.d.). Retrieved from tourisme iles de la madeleine: https://www.tourismeilesdelamadeleine.com/en/discover-the-islands/experiences/nature/birdwatching/#listeAttraits
  • (1995, august 8). Retrieved from CBC Digital Archives: https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/new-concerns-for-magdalen-islands-after-irving-whale-sinks
  • archives, C. D. (1970, september 10). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/irving-whale-goes-down
  • Canada, E. (1999). Retrieved from http://www.etc-cte.ec.gc.ca/databases/oilproperties/pdf/web_bunker_c_fuel_oil.pdf
  • Canada, G. o. (1996). Retrieved from https://waves-vagues.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/40629405.pdf
  • CBC Digital Archives. (1970, September 10). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/irving-whale-goes-down
  • Collins, N. a. (1993). Environmental Risk Analysis Of Salvaging The Irving Whale. Geographical Information Systems: Applications to Marine Fisheries, 262. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=4atflFlnWwMC&pg=PA262&lpg=PA262&dq=irving+whale+oil+spill+trajectory&source=bl&ots=osiIN_Xs3c&sig=ACfU3U0DDqR-edi2yeVbzN7dgCVTjWFhnA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjFpJrA5eHiAhVFPq0KHSDGBNQ4ChDoATAAegQICRAB#v=onepage&q=irving%20wha
  • environment Canada. (2006, september 27). Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20060927220716/http://www.ns.ec.gc.ca/whale2/earpx.html
  • Greenfacts. (2001). Retrieved from https://www.greenfacts.org/en/pcbs/l-2/1-polychlorinated-biphenyls.htm
  • Science Direct. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353256197000194


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