Barrel of oil found in Elafonisi, Crete (Greece)

It is not uncommon for some ships to dump garbage into the sea or clean dirty tanks when they are distant from shore. Sea currents, or storms or tides end up dragging the content to the beaches, making the location of the polluter almost impossible. Other times they argue that they “lost” the load in bad weather.

Ironically this happened the day before Earth Day, April 21, 2006 at Elafonisi Beach: “The Amazing Pink Beach Of Crete”.

The island is a protected nature reserve. It is known for its pink sand beaches, created by tidal and wave-induced deposits of pigmented microorganisms living in a symbiotic relationship with native seaweed.

Walking through the area I noticed that there were quite a few small pieces of plastic and garbage, which surprised me but many times it is what winter storms leave.

After a while I discovered a barrel stranded in the sand.

Barrel with oil stranded in the sand of Elafonisi, Crete, Greece. 2006 – Panorama

The barrel was full of oil. One liter of oil has the capacity to pollute the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool, so imagine what this can do:


Barrel full of oil in Elafonisi, 2006


Barrel full of oil in Elafonisi, 2006

I was very aware of the pollution on the coasts since I had recently witnessed the catastrophe of the Prestige oil spill in Galicia, so I gave notice of what I had found and what it contained.
Luckily I had a GPS with me and I was able to give them a very precise location of where I was.

That same year, in 2006, the NISOS ELAFONISOS area was confirmed as a Site of Community importance (SCI), and in 2011 a special area of conservation (SAC).