Breaking: Possible Environmental Disaster in Antarctica


We usually try to focus on positive developments and solutions, but once in a while something that is neither catches our eye and we can't help but share it with you. The Times Online reports: "New Zealand gave warning of a possible environmental disaster in the Antarctic today after the flagship of the Japanese whaling fleet caught fire [yesterday] in the sea off the world's largest penguin breeding site [...] there is still danger that some of the 1.3 million litres of oil on board will leak into the otherwise clean southern seas." The ship is currently adrift in the Ross Sea near the pristine breeding ground of 250,000 pairs of penguins (among other wildlife in the area) and, according to the latest news, the fire is not out yet, only contained. It is estimated that the ship has 1,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil on board as well as many other chemicals. The 148-member crew of the ship was evacuated except for 1 person who is missing and the captain with 30 others who stayed on the ship. The seas are presently calm but notorious for extreme storms.


"The master advises he has the situation under control," said Mr Corbett who cautioned that there was "still some potential" that the fire could flare up again.

"The fire is below decks, below the bridge and above the engine room," Mr Corbett told Reuters. "It is not out, it is still going, but its contained in the factory space. It’s a serious fire. What they have done is seal off the area and they will let it burn itself out. The temperature is dropping, that’s good news."

On whaling:

The Japanese Government is intent on overturning the moratorium on commercial whaling that has been in place since 1986. So far, with the help of landlocked countries such as Mongolia and tiny island states like Tuvalu and Kiribati, Japan has corralled a simple majority in the group but remains short of the three-quarters needed to end the ban.

Photo credit: Tony Karacsonyi, map in the public domain.

For more: ::Penguin alert as whaler catches fire off Antarctic, ::Japan ship fire 'under control', ::Japan in commercial whaling push

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