Series F-65-9 - Chedabucto Bay (N.S.) oil spill clean-up (Operation Oil) records

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Chedabucto Bay (N.S.) oil spill clean-up (Operation Oil) records

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  • 1970 - 1974 (Creation)

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75 cm of textual records

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(1912 - 1997)

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Series comprises records relating to McTaggart-Cowan's work as Head of the Task Force Operation Oil, established by the Minister of Transport in February 1970.

On February 4, 1970 the Liberian tanker the Arrow was wrecked on Cerberus Rock in Chedabucto Bay, off Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The tanker was bound from Venezuela carrying a cargo of 108,000 barrels of Bunker C fuel oil for Imperial Oil Limited. It is estimated that some two-thirds of the cargo was released into the Bay, polluting 190 miles of the Bay's 375-mile shoreline. The wreck in Chedabucto Bay was the first major spill of heavy Bunker C oil in frigid waters and presented problems for clean-up which were without precedent.

Initial clean-up efforts were directed by James Hornsby of Imperial Oil; he was replaced on February 13. On February 20, the Minster of Tranport appointed a three-man Task Force dubbed “Operation Oil,” with McTaggart-Cowan as the Head, assisted by Dr. H. Sheffer of the Defense Research Board of Canada (Deputy Head), and Capt. M. A. Martin of Maritime Command. The mandate of the Task Force was to minimize damage to the economy and ecology of the region, to gain a knowledge and understanding of oil spills in order to contend with similar incidents in the future, and to make recommendations for minimizing occurrences of oil spills and for providing immediate response and control. In overseeing the clean-up, the Task Force established various headquarters and field units, with much of the on-site capability being provided by the Canadian Armed Forces. Operation Oil reported to the Minister on September 1, 1970 (Final Report, volumes I - III). Clean-up efforts continued over the next two years, and the Task Force delivered the fourth and last volume of its Final Report on May 23, 1972.

Records include correspondence, memoranda, minutes, photographs, diaries, reports and publications (including the Final Report of the Task Force), press releases and press clippings, telegrams, proposals, contracts, plans and drawings, claims sheets and invoices.

Note that the records in this series were made or received by McTaggart-Cowan in his official capacity as Head of the Task Force, an agency of the federal government. Accordingly, in terms of provenance these are public records of Ministry of Transport. The records remained, however, in the physical custody of McTaggart-Cowan and were transferred to the Archives along with his private papers.

Note that associated records may also be held by the federal government department Environment Canada. According to a letter to McTaggart-Cowan dated July 6, 1971 (see file F-65-9-1-19), "much of the reconnaissance data obtained at Chedabucto Bay on ‘Operation Oil' has been placed on microfilm and is stored at the Canadian Oceanographic Data Centre."

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