Oil Now Surrounds World Heritage Site, Inaccessible Island. Thousands of Endangered Penguins, Seabirds at Risk

Inaccessible Island, a World Heritage Site

Inaccessible Island, a World Heritage Site

ABOARD PRINCE ALBERT II: I spoke today with Katrine Herrion, a project officer of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) stationed at Tristan da Cunha.

Katrine was camped on Inaccessible Island last weekend and reports that as of Sunday, oil completely surrounded the island. She and her team observed nearly 100 oiled penguins just before they departed. Clearly many more are being impacted.

Trevor Glass, Director of the Tristan da Cunha Department of Conservation was planning to return to Tristan da Cunha from Nightingale Island with around 750 penguins for rehabilitation. This represents a small percentage of the number of birds estimated to be impacted at this point, conservatively estimated at more than 10,000.

Because penguins cannot fly, it is impossible for them to avoid the oil when entering and exiting the water. Oil impacts the waterproof properties of their feathers and makes them vulnerable to hypothermia by reducing their feather’s insulation abilities. Oil can seriously impact the birds’ eyes and other tissues and can poison them if they ingest the oil while attempting to clean their feathers. A number of oiled seals have also been observed on Nightingale Island. Read more

Aboard the Cape to Cape Expedition: Disaster at Nightingale Island

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March 21, 2011: The Prince Albert II finds itself in the middle of a rescue mission as its expedition team comes to the rescue of a cargo ship that has run aground at one of the most remote islands in the world, Nightingale Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha island group, an area that is home to the second largest population of seabirds in the world, including half of the world’s endangered Northern Rockhopper penguin population. When the ship breaks up and begins spilling its 300,000 gallons of heavy marine oil, it becomes clear that this may rank as one of the most serious environmental disasters of its kind.

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