The Greek-owned bulk carrier MS Oliva run aground on 4-km² Nightingale Island, part of the UK’s Tristan da Cunha Islands in the South Atlantic and home to large populations of albatrosses and other seabirds, in the early morning of 16 March.
The heavily-laden 75 300-tonne ship, registered in 2009, was proceeding from Santos in Brazil to Singapore with a cargo of Soya beans. A salvage tug is to leave Cape Town today and is expected to arrive at Nightingale on the 21st.
Meanwhile members of the Tristan Conservation Department are attempting to reach the site of the shipwreck to set rodent traps on the island as a precautionary measure but are currently being hampered by rough seas. Although the ship’s captain has stated it is free of rats, Nightingale is one of the few alien mammal-free islands in the Southern Ocean, and the arrival and establishment of rats would place its seabirds and land birds at severe risk.
Early this morning rough seas were also stalling the evacuation of the full complement of the ship’s crew to a crayfish fishing vessel that is standing by. Waves are now starting to break over the grounded ship and the first signs of spilled oil have also been noticed : bad news especially for the island’s penguins.
Nightingale supports important populations of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses Thalassarche chlororhynchos (c. 1000 pairs, endemic to the Tristan Group) and of Sooty Albatrosses Phoebetria fusca (c. 200 pairs).