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Decaying old whaling ships in Newfoundland leaking oil

PortandTerminal.com, August 4, 2019

ST. JOHN’S, N.L.— There are three sunken old whaling ships from the 1920s in Conception Harbour, Newfoundland and two below the surface are leaking oil. What was once a tourist attraction for the small community of Conception Harbour is now an environmental threat.

Conception Harbour Mayor Craig Williams is calling on the Canadian Coast Guard to remove oil from three abandoned whaling ships that is leaking into the water around his town.

Conception Harbour, Newfoundland in Canada (pop. 685) is an old whaling outpost

Williams said Friday he’s seen more oil sheens this summer than in past years, and the smell sometimes wafts to shore, where people take photos of the famous wreckage. “If you’re standing in front of it now if the wind is right or there’s no wind, you can actually smell the oil,” Williams said in an interview. Residents have raised concerns about environmental damage from the pollution, he said. “We don’t want to destroy the ecosystem that’s there.”

Conception Harbour Mayor Craig Williams

The ruins of abandoned whaling ships in Conception Harbour have long attracted sightseers, but oil seeping from the decaying vessels has tainted the impressive view and damaged the environment.

Backstory

1920’s whaling ship

The three old whaling ships were built in the 1920s and had been owned by the Hawke Harbour Whaling Company, according to a 2014 report published by the province’s tourism department.

The report says the ships were brought to Conception Bay following a fire in 1959 that destroyed the Hawke Harbour whaling station in southern Labrador. They were abandoned at a Conception Harbour wharf in the late 1960s. Since then, two of the three vessels have submerged.

The wreck site has become a major attraction, bringing divers and photographers to the town, located about an hour’s drive west of St. John’s. Tourists are particularly fond of snapping pictures of the rusting SS Charcot, which is partially sunken and juts out of the water, offering people a stunning visual. “I do a fair bit of photography myself, and sometimes I’ll go down … on a nice moonlit night to do a shot, and there’s already someone there,” Williams said. “It is probably one of the most photographed wrecks in Newfoundland.”

Snapping photos of the remains of the SS Charcot is a major tourist attraction in the area

The Canadian Coast Guard said Friday a dive assessment traced the sheen to the MV Sukha, one of the three derelict vessels. The force said they temporarily repaired the leak and removed 100 litres of oil.

The Canadian Coast Guard has installed a containment boom around the area but it is insufficient to catch all of the leaking oil.

They also said a containment boom around the site is still in place. “Video and data collected from the dive assessment are currently being reviewed to identify options for a more permanent solution,” the coast guard said in a statement. Williams said he’s been in communication with the coast guard and hoped they will quickly come up with a plan to remove the rest of the oil.

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