The nice thing about natural disasters is that you always know who to blame them on: your god, your god's greatest mortal enemy or a kraken. Unfortunately, we don't have the same luxury when it comes to catastrophes brought on by man -- especially when all of man's bright ideas for fixing them just keep making them worse.
5Fixing an Oil Spill With Napalm
It's probably hard to believe now, but BP hasn't always enjoyed the stellar reputation it does today. Back in 1967, British Petroleum chartered an oil tanker named the Torrey Canyon to deliver a mess of crude oil to a refinery in Wales. This wasn't just any run-of-the mill tanker; it was the world's first supertanker, capable of hauling 120,000 tons of oil at a time. And unfortunately, its huge capacity for oil-carrying was just about all that was "super" about the Torrey Canyon, because if that tanker had had the power of flight, it would be in a totally different article right now.
"6 Harbingers of the Apocalypse and FLEE -- FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES."
So you can probably see where this is heading.
The Torrey Canyon's problems started with Capt. Pastrengo Rugiati, who, like most Italian oiler tanker captains, had a few bad habits. One was that he liked shortcuts, presumably so he could get home to perpetuate some Italian stereotypes, like eating spaghetti and extorting bribes. Another was that he kept forgetting whether his ship was set to "automatic" or "manual," which is semi-important when you need to make some tricky maneuvers in a hugeass supertanker. And finally, he appointed the ship's cook as his helmsman.
"The captain is on the starboard side, and I'm drunk on the port."
Shockingly, all of this coagulated into a blitzkrieg of stupid that landed the Torrey Canyon smack dab in the middle of the Seven Stones, a ridiculously famous reef off the coast of Cornwall.
And ... crash.
How They Made It Worse:
Deadly chemicals and napalm.
By nightfall, it was crystal clear that the Torrey Canyon was going down, which was probably why all 31 million gallons of oil on board got sentient and decided to abandon ship. Within 12 hours of the spill, the British navy decided the best option was to unleash an assault of "detergents" on the six-mile slick, since detergents had worked all right on cleaning up minor coastal spills in the past. And what do you know, British Petroleum manufactured those exact detergents! Talk about lucky!
Oh, BP. You guys have the solution to everything!
Except these "detergents" weren't detergents at all -- they were cleaning solvents meant to be used on engine rooms, not oceans. One reporter said that using the detergents to mop up oil was "like trying to pick up quicksilver with boxing gloves." The chemicals not only made it harder to capture the oil but also made it easier for marine animals to capture it. In their mouths. So now birds and fish weren't ingesting just oil -- they were ingesting oil and toxic chemicals.
So that didn't work. On to Plan B: BOMBING THE SINKING SHIP WITH NAPALM. The idea was to ignite the oil and burn it off, hopefully before it did much more damage. Which probably would have been awesome, had the navy not missed a quarter of its targets. Or if the oil had actually ignited, which it didn't, even after aviation fuel was dumped on top of it. Then, in a baffling display of shortsighted thinking, frustrated residents began collecting the blobs of oil showing up on the coast and dumping it into a quarry -- that was once a German bomb dump. So now, on account of the bombs, this stinking pit of Texas tea is completely inaccessible to anyone who wants to clean up this mess once and for all.
Via Graeme Robertson
The BBC recommends this hell-pit for days out. The BBC is hard-core.
But hey, at least Britain got about $3.1 million out of the deal. We're sure that went a long way in buying new beaches.