Home » Poetry » Torrey Canyon and loss

Torrey Canyon and loss

Just over 2 years ago I had a conversation with musician Sam Underwood http://www.mrunderwood.co.uk/. We talked about disasters, both public and personal, and I wrote the piece below for him, using words found in a news report about the 1967 Torrey Canyon disaster. Click here to read the report

As well as thinking about the devastation caused by this tragic event, I also had in mind the effects of losing someone close to you, more specifically what it’s like knowing you are about to lose someone close to you. I think that’s probably what inspired the title.

Not long after writing this, I did some recording for Sam who encouraged me to sing as low in my register and as slowly as possible. A very cathartic experience.

An everyday thing that changed the world
for Sam Underwood

March 1967. Torrey Canyon has run aground,
hit Pollard’s Rock in the Seven Stones reef,
a supertanker, snagged on rocks, breaking up,
bleeding its cargo of oil into the sea.

Troops patrol the coastline, standing by
as the giant oil slick heads towards beaches.
The oil could cover the whole of the coast
for a year.

Tens of thousands of tons of oil,
a slick 35 miles long and 20 miles wide,
sludge a foot deep,
the biggest problem of its kind
ever faced by any nation.

Bombs rain down on Torrey Canyon
but the stricken tanker refuses to sink
to the bottom of the sea.

Holiday makers gather on cliffs.
The towering column of flames and smoke
is seen a hundred miles away.

70 miles of Cornish beaches seriously contaminated,
tens of thousands of seabirds killed;
the heavy use of detergent more damaging to marine life
than the oil.

This is the worst environmental disaster to date.
This is the costliest shipping disaster ever.
The slick can only be dispersed by favourable weather.

© Heather Wastie


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