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Oil Spill Pioneers

Science in a Time of Crisis Part 1: Oil Spill Pioneers
On Sept. 16, 1969, the barge Florida ran aground off Cape Cod, rupturing its hull and spilling more than 175,000 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil. Winds and waves pushed the oil onto the beaches and marshes of West Falmouth, Mass., on the figurative doorstep of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Marine chemists and biologists who usually worked on basic questions of oceanography applied their expertise and specialized techniques to the problems posed by the spill. In the process, they laid a foundation and a legacy for research on oil spills that were applied decades later to Deepwater Horizon. To learn more, visit


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