The oil spills of Prestige tanker observed from space

On 13th November 2002, the tanker Prestige was wrecked off Galice (Spain) after its crew was rescued. This was the beginning of the third big oil slick in Galice history. This event was monitored from space by satellite-embedded high resolution microwave radars.

GALICIA, Spain 19 Nov : A crippled tanker carrying more than 20 million gallons (around 67,000 tons) of oil split in half off the northwest coast of Spain, threatening one of the worst environmental disasters in history.

Several earth observation satellites routinely acquire high resolution image of the sea surface. Radar sensors, which are notre sensitive to clouds, are particularly suited to follow the temporal and spatial evolution of oil slicks. This page presents images of Synthetic Aperture Radars onboard the european Envisat satellite and Canadian Radarsat satellite.

Zoom : we can observe a rotation and a shortening of dominant waves in the area around where short waves are damped by the oil slick (low intensity spot).

On 18th november, the Radarsat SAR image shows the arrival of the Prestige oil slicks at the Galicia Coast. The Prestige tanker sinks on the next day.

On 18th november, detail of the previous image showing the distribution of the slick near the coast.