An Argentine supply ship sank in heavy seas after running aground off Antarctica, and authorities in the region said oil from the ship had created a 10-mile slick that was killing wildlife.
No one was injured in the sinking late Tuesday of the 400-foot Bahai Paraiso, which began leaking diesel fuel after striking rocks on Saturday, the government news agency Telam reported, citing a navy communique.It did not say whether the double-hulled ship broke up or if diesel oil had spilled when it sank.
The U.S. National Science Foundation had warned before the vessel went down that the Antarctic could face ecological calamity if the 250,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard the ship were to spill.
Officials from the foundation, the Greenpeace environmental group and a U.S. research facility near the shipwreck said fuel that leaked from the vessel before it sank had killed krill, a shrimp-like crustacean that is a vital part of the Antarctic food chain, affecting gulls and penguins.
"The krill are dying; they are literally jumping out of the water," the New Zealand Press Association quoted a Greenpeace spokesman, Peter Bogart, as saying. "Seabirds attracted by the krill are diving into the slick . . . It's a real environmental disaster in no uncertain terms."
Bogart said the information was relayed by an officer at the U.S. Palmer Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula, which is two miles from the shipwreck. A station spokesman, talking to The Associated Press by telephone on condition of anonymity, said leaking oil had caused a 10-mile slick.
The ship had been carrying supplies including jet fuel, gasoline and canisters of compressed gases to the Argentine Esperanza station near the tip of the peninsula, the National Science Foundation said in a statement released in Washington.
More than 300 tourists and crew were evacuated from the ship after it ran aground about 600 miles south of Cape Horn, the tip of South America. Salvage efforts had been hampered by 50 mph winds.
The ship sustained a 35-foot-long gash in its hull, and some diesel fuel began leaking, washing ashore near Palmer station, the foundation said.