Units Matter – South Atlantic Now Extra 0.0000xx1875% Hydrocarbons


We have the tale of a shameful contamination of Mother Gaia here. The Chilean Navy has managed to dump 40,000 litres of diesel into the waters off Patagonia.

Chile oil spill: 40,000 litres of diesel spilled into sea off Patagonia

40,000 whole litres, eh?

That’s some 251 barrels of oil, or perhaps 30 tonnes of it.

The South Atlantic (yes, I know, but this came up first, before Pacific) has 160 billion cubic kilometres of water in it. Each km3 weighs a billion tonnes. 30 tonnes is therefore:


You know, give or take a few zeroes.

Or, you know, less addition to the ocean than the displacement of the vessels running around trying to clean it up?

The navy said it had deployed ships to the area to control damage from the spill and an investigation had been launched. “The marine pollution control centre was activated,” Ronald Baasch, commander of the navy’s Third Naval Zone, told local media. CAP released a statement saying the incident had already been contained. The spill affected a bay and the company said it installed a container sleeve in the area on Saturday and began removing oil from the environment immediately.

Jeez, won’t Gaia be pissed.

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Leo SavanttThe MoleBoganboy Recent comment authors
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The Mole
The Mole

To be fair, if it is into a bay then most of the oil will stay there (for a while), so as a percentage of the water in the bay it will be much much higher and more likely to harm a bit of wildlife (and impact fishermen). Then again the headline would be much more interesting (and accurate) if it also mentioned that its in a bay, saying it was spilt into the sea is a literal drop in the ocean after-all. As another comparison a tanker that can go through the panama canal can hold 500k barrels, whilst… Read more »

Leo Savantt
Leo Savantt

Good news for colwellia, always look on the bright side.


I’d argue that the significance depends on whether the spill actually causes some real inconvenience to someone. After all, I’d be annoyed if someone blew smoke in my face, but I don’t give a damn if someone just puffs on a cigarette provided I don’t have to smell it.