Esperance environmental disaster remembered 25 years on.

Esperance environmental disaster remembered 25 years on

Last week marked 25 years since the environmental disaster of the Sanko Harvest wreck, on Valentines Day 1991.

The Sanko Harvest became stranded after it struck a reef 15km south of Cape Le Grand and heavy swells caused it to break up and release its cargo of 30,000 tonnes of soluble fertiliser and 800 tonnes of heavy fuel oil which covered the beaches of Cape Le Grand National Park.

The bulk carrier with a Korean crew and captain on a passage from Tampa in the United States attempted to cut through the Recherche Archipelago to Esperance.

Mackenzies Tug Service director Fud Mackenzie took out his fishing boat SeaLion to help with the attempted salvage of the Sanko Harvest.

He recalled the ship master's distress call to Harbour Master Ian Harrod when the ship hit the reef: "Captain, I think we are going to be late."

Oil spilt from the ship after it broke up was concentrated in the inaccessible Boulder Bay between Hellfire and Thistle bays, but it also spread from Lucky Bay to Butty Head.

Volunteers spent 10 days washing stricken fur seals and seagulls covered in the oil while Esperance Shire Council graded the beaches to collect the blackened sand.

"It was hard to believe it was just 800 tonnes of oil because the mess was unbelievable," Mr Mackenzie said.

"Mr Mackenzie said the sound of the Sanko Harvest sinking was a noise he would never forget.

"The ship was awash with seas rolling over it and the air was being squeezed out of the hold of the ship.

"The ship was screaming; it was dieing."

"It was spine tingling." Mr Mackenzie said.

Mr Mackenzie said legacies of the disaster were the reef was now named Harvest Reef, navigation charts clearly marked the archipeligo as not accessible for shipping and the ship's master was de-listed.

He said the submerged Sanko Harvest was now a marine park area and a diving haven.


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