Dr Wingate on Bermuda, Oil Spills & Animals

June 9, 2010

The Bermuda Environmental Alliance [BEA] has an article up in which noted conservationist Dr David Wingate recalls a previous oil spill decades ago; its impact on Bermuda and our animals as well as discusses the present day scenario. Researchers recently concluded that the oil spill disaster from the Gulf of Mexico explosion may pass by Bermuda in approximately 90 days. This infographic shows a time line of the events which unfolded.

An excerpt from the BEA article follows below:

It seems like déjà vu for lifelong conservationist and Ornithologist Dr. David Wingate, as he drifts back to the late 1960’s early 70’s, when there was no conventional control of oil pollution. Super oil tankers crossing the Atlantic Ocean carelessly flushed the oil sludge into the sea as they returned empty for another load. “As the amount of oil being shipped was increasing exponentially this practice began to pollute the oceans,” said Dr. Wingate.

Bermuda being the only land mass in the Sargasso Gyre this island began to experience the devastating impact of floating tar lumps in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. The island’s wildlife was hard hit by the oil spill. “It was hitting us disproportionately because of our location in the Sargasso Gyre. Certainly my impression was the whole community declined including Sargasso weed and all the organisms in it,” said Dr. Wingate.

The Longtails that returned in spring to nest were smeared with patches of tar on their plumage. “At its worst in 1974 I was counting – one out of every four had some tar smears on it, most of the previous years it was one in every 10.”

Dr. Wingate explains they were picking up tar in two ways – “Longtails usually spend a lot of time in the open ocean sitting on the water. This made it easy for the tar lumps to smear their plumage, as they fluffed their flank feathers on the side.” The oil smeared further into their wings when the birds tried to preen, causing the feathers to stick, and making it difficult to fly.

Dr Wingate continues on to discuss the present day oil scenario, read the full article here on the BEA website.

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Category: All, Environment, News

Comments (1)

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  1. terry says:

    Dr. Wingate is spot on. He deserves a lot of credit for his work over the years.

    In the ’50′s’ the island was inundated at times with large black tar balls etc. but thats another story to some extent as the oil that is spewing in the gulf is fresh, unrefined et al.

    Bermuda has been lucky in many respects.