The Grounding of theBaha Paraso, Arthur Harbor, Antarctica Chapter uri icon


  • 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Enroute to resupply an Argentine Antarctic base, the Baha Paraso had just completed a sight-seeing visit to Palmer Station on Anvers Island when it ran aground while exiting Arthur Harbor on January 28, 1989. As a result of a 10m tear in the ship's hull, the vessel discharged most of its cargo of diesel fuel arctic, JP-1 jet fuel, gasoline, compressed gas cylinders, lubricating oils, and hydraulic fluids into the harbor. Initial field assessments conducted from January to March 1989 indicated that water, organisms, and sediments within a 2 mile radius of Arthur Harbor were contaminated by an estimated 600,000l of spilled petroleum. Components of the ecosystem, including birds, limpets, macroalgae, bivalves, bottom-feeding fish, and sediments, were contaminated to varying degrees during the spill. The spill's impact were limited to an area within a few kilometers of the wreck and over a several-week period due to reduction in leakage, cleanup efforts, spill weathering, and flushing of the area. The spill's most direct effect was in the intertidal zone where oil fouled macroalgae, limpets, birds, sediments, and rocks. The first evidence of ecological damage was in the intertidal region where thousands of dead limpets washed ashore within a week of the accident. Little sediment is present in the study area, and most beaches are composed of pebble-sized or larger rocks which provided few places for the slick to concentrate protected from wave and wind action. This prevented the oil from depositing on the islands, except on beaches and above the surf zone. The high energy waves and winds that buffet the harbor, the relatively small volume of material released, and the volatility of the released products contributed to limiting the spatial and temporal extent of the spill's toxic effects. Removal mechanisms were dominated by evaporation, dilution, through wind, and current action. Sedimentation, biological uptake, microbial oxidation, and photo-oxidation removed only minor amounts of the spill. For the most part, the spill was dissipated by natural processes. Two years after the spill, several areas still exhibited evidence of contamination which was most likely due to intermittent releases from the Baha Paraso that sunk in the harbor. Subtidal sediments and more proximal intertidal locations were devoid of detectable polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon contaminants whereas sediments near the dock at Palmer Station continued to exhibit contamination from localized non-spill related activities in the area. In late 1992, a joint Argentine/Netherland initiative recovered most of the remaining fuel from the vessel; however, Arthur Harbor and adjacent islands continue to be chronically exposed to low-level petroleum contamination emanating from the ship.

author list (cited authors)

  • Sweet, S. T., Kennicutt, M. C., & Klein, A. G.

Book Title

  • Handbook of Oil Spill Science and Technology

publication date

  • January 1, 2014 11:11 AM