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Pollution of Sea and Shore by Oil


    FOR several years, persistent complaints have been made about the damage caused to organisms upon the sea-shore and particularly to birds which frequent the surface by oil discharged from ships. The number of birds whose feathers become so coated with the discharge that they are unable to fly or to dive for food, and in consequence die a slow death from starvation, has been reported to be very great in some years and in some places. From preliminary investigations into the whole subject of oil pollution at sea, Prof. N. K. Adam has written a report, submitted to the Council of the Royal Society, and printed for private circulation, the general effect of which is to allay some of the fears aroused by the earlier records and surmises. In the seas about the British Isles, the principal sources of oil are wrecks, fuel oil accidentally discharged, usually from ballast tanks, and sludge from the cleaning of oil tanks on tankers or oil-burning ships. But the nuisance due to the oil appears to have diminished in recent years, owing partly to the regulations which now prohibit the discharge of oil or oily water near the coast, and partly to the increased use of separators on board ships. A reassuring statement is that fuel oil entirely loses its tendency to spread after a few weeks at ordinary temperatures on a water surface in contact with gravel. On the surface of the sea also it seems to disappear, for it is rare to see an oily film, and it has been found that no appreciable amount is present as an invisible film.

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