Learn about the Torrey Canyon Oil Spill

Posted: April 3, 2023 in News

8,000 birds came through our doors in one year

Our Hospital has been offering care and rehabilitation to birds for almost 100 years – and without doubt, the Torrey Canyon oil spill in 1967 was the most serious event in our history.

In 1967, the supertanker SS Torrey Canyon ran aground on rocks off the south west coast of the UK, spilling 100,000 tonnes of crude oil into the English Channel.

Following a navigational error, the boat struck Pollard’s Rock on the extreme Western end of the Seven Stones between the Cornish mainland and the Isle of Scilly on 18 March.

Hundreds of miles of coastline in Britain, France, Guernsey and Spain were affected by the spillage.

During that one year alone, Mousehole Wild Bird Hospital Cornwall saw over 8,000 birds come through our doors.

More than 15,000 sea birds were killed. Clogged up with the oil, they were washed up both dead and alive on the shores. Future populations of some species took many years to recover.

At the time, it was the world’s worst oil spill and it remains the worst spill in UK history. It led to significant changes in maritime law and responses to oil spills.

See footage from British Pathe here: