1. Gulf War Oil Spill
Tons spilled: 1,360,000-1,500,000
In January 1991, Iraqi forces deliberately released more than 240 million gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf in an attempt to thwart an amphibious landing by the U.S. Marines. The resulting oil slick ravaged the area’s marine ecosystem, killing thousands of seabirds and endangering other wildlife. To date, it remains the worst disaster of its kind.
2. Ixtoc I
Tons spilled: 454,000-480,000
The exploratory oil well Ixtoc I exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on June 3, 1979, spewing 140 million gallons of oil into the open sea. It took control experts more than nine months to cap the spill and begin cleanup. Thousands of endangered sea turtles were airlifted to safety when the oil slick encroached upon their nesting site.
3. The Atlantic Empress and the Aegean Captain
Tons spilled: 287,000
On July 19, 1979, two gigantic supertankers collided off the Caribbean island of Little Tobago during a tropical rainstorm. The accident killed 26 crew members and dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the sea.
4. Fergana Valley
Tons spilled: 285,000
In March 1992, 88 million gallons of oil spilled from a well in Fergana Valley, a densely populated industrial and agricultural zone in Uzbekistan. It remains the largest inland oil spill in history.
5. Nowruz Oil Field
Tons spilled: 260,000
On February 10, 1983, at the height of the Iran-Iraq War, an oil tanker collided with the Nowruz platform in the Persian Gulf. The slick caught fire when Iraqi planes attacked, and it took Iranian workers more than six months to cap the well. Eleven people died in the process.
6. ABT Summer
Tons spilled: 260,000
The Liberian supertanker ABT Summer exploded off the coast of Angola on May 28, 1991, killing five crew members. Millions of gallons of oil leaked into the Atlantic Ocean.
7. Castillo de Bellver
Tons spilled: 252,000
On August 6, 1983, a fire broke out aboard the Spanish tanker Castillo de Bellver, causing a massive explosion that spilled 78 million gallons of oil off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. A shift in winds pushed the oil offshore, minimizing the disaster’s environmental effects.
8. Amoco Cadiz
Tons spilled: 223,000
On March 16, 1978, the Amoco Cadiz supertanker wrecked off the coast of Portsall, France. Ultimately, 240 miles of France’s Brittany coast suffered oil damage, with millions of dead mollusks and sea urchins washing ashore. This was the first time images of oil-coated sea birds were seen by the world.
9. M/T Haven
Tons spilled: 144,000
The M/T Haven, a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), suffered a huge explosion off the coast of Genoa, Italy, on April 11, 1991. Six crew members were killed, and the Mediterranean coasts of Italy and France remained polluted for the next 12 years.
Tons spilled: 132,000
In November 1988, the American-owned Odyssey drilling rig burst into flames and split in two off the coast of Novia Scotia. The accident killed one person and poured 43 million gallons of oil into the sea.