31st March 1978

Guernsey and France tackle the Amoco Cadiz oil spill

British and French tugs joined forces to save the Channel Islands – and some French beaches – from a 40-mile long oil slick.

When the Amoco Cadiz ran around off the coast of Brittany in mid-March 1978, she split in three and spilled almost 220,000 tons of light crude oil. No doubt, the Torrey Canyon disaster, which had happened just eleven years earlier, would have been in Guernsey residents’ minds as they watched news of the wreck on TV.

Amoco Cadiz

History repeating

Like Amoco Cadiz, the Torrey Canyon was a Liberian-registered tanker. It ran aground off Cornwall and spilled 120,000 tons of crude oil – 100,000 tons less than the Amoco Cadiz. Much of Torrey Canyon’s load washed up on Guernsey’s beaches. Some of the cleaned oil is still being stored and treated in a quarry on the island.

Where the Torrey Canyon spill caused considerable damage, though, the effect from Amoco Cadiz was relatively light, in part because rough seas helped to break it up.

The slick was eventually more than 40 miles long, and heading for Guernsey and Jersey after the ship went down. Guernsey dispatched boats to tackle it with more than 100 tons of dispersant. Once it had been thinned, it would partly evaporate, leaving less to be physically cleaned up. The dispersant spraying operation continued for a week.

Preventative action

France drew up plans to bomb the tanker, as the RAF had done with the remains of the Torrey Canyon. It was hoped that this would burn off the worst of the leaking oil, and although it would cause considerable immediate pollution the long-term effects would be less serious.

A small amount of oil washed ashore at Petit Port. However, the work of the dispersal teams and the French air force saved Guernsey from the worst possible outcome.


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Other events that occured in March

Debut of Guernsey-set comedy This is Jinsy 1st
Channel 4 broadcasts Sark-based Mr Pye 2nd
First ever broadcast of Puffin’s Pla(i)ce 3rd
Dead man appointed to run Guernsey Airport 4th
Guernsey’s entire police force is arrested 5th
Isle of Guernsey delivered to its new owners 6th
Guernsey players set darts record
Guernsey heads call for an end to the Eleven-plus 7th
Guernsey’s first governor, Edmund Weston, is appointed 8th
Occupying forces mount a desperate raid on Granville 9th
Guernsey emergency services prepare for a disaster 10th
Birth of Baron James de Saumarez 11th
First publication of Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea 12th
Building work starts on Guernsey Airport 13th
Guernsey’s island-wide police force is established 14th
Guernsey exchange student goes missing in Virginia 15th
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is published 16th
BBC Radio Guernsey takes to the air
Guernsey clears up after heaviest snow in years 17th
Torrey Canyon spills oil on Guernsey’s beaches 18th
Guernsey issues banknotes featuring famous locals 19th
Guernsey guidebook pioneer Henry Inglis dies 20th
Soldiers staged a mutiny at Fort George 21st
Alderney arrest sparks a “riot” 22nd
Guernsey nurse Elizabeth Lincoln elected to the States 23rd
Famed printer Thomas de la Rue born 24th
Guernsey votes for equal age of consent 25th
Guernsey to UK telephone connection inaugurated 26th
Condor Liberation enters service 27th
Guernsey Post Office is established 28th
Enemy at the Door comes to the end of its run 29th
Guernsey adopts Sterling currency 30th
Guernsey and France tackle the Amoco Cadiz oil spill 31st