Prestige Shipwreck, oil spill and ecological catastrophe

These images were my contribution to a photographic exhibition that I carried out on the occasion of the sinking of the Prestige oil tanker off the coast of Galicia in 2002. The ecological catastrophe produced by the oil leak had dimensions hitherto unknown in Spain, which was seen as a layer of oil covered hundreds of kilometers of coastline.

Thanks to the support of the Casa de la Juventud and the Córdoba City Council, I was able to go at a time when they were trying to clean the coast of oil and trying to prevent new oil slicks from reaching the coast.

I was able to document the catastrophe of the oil spill on the Galician coasts, the efforts of the volunteers both in removing the oil and in providing the necessary logistics, as well as moments of coexistence and humanity, and the protests of the people against the management that was being carried out of the catastrophe.

The images were captured in late December 2002 and early January 2003.

Prestige Shipwreck and oil spill

On November 13, 2002, ‘Prestige’, a Bahamas-flagged oil tanker with 77,033 tons of fuel on board, started to capsize near the coast of Galicia (Spain) and a slick of oil spilled five miles long. Six days later, on November 19, after being towed out to the open sea, the tanker breaks in two and sinks 3,600 meters below the sea, just 246 miles from Finisterre (A Coruña, Spain).

The fishermen who saw first that the oil was approaching the coast, went out to the sea with their boats to pick it up before it reached the coast and the estuaries where the oil would cause irreparable harm. Barriers were constructed to try to contain it, but the oil was very slick and it managed to reach the coast.

During the following days the oil came to the coast, nothing was left unspoiled. A black layer covering the lives of many people.

People tried to clean it up with any means they could reach. It was not enough. Wave after wave came covered with oil.

Thousands of volunteers came from everywhere to help remove the oil from the coast.

The cross is the symbol of what is dead, covered in black as the sea. A natural disaster, a human drama


  • 63.000 tons of oil spilled
  • 1,600 km of coastline contaminated
  • More than 65,000 people flocked to combat fuel
  • 1,087 volunteers needed medical attention
  • 23,181 birds of over 90 species collected
  • 4.442 € million total cost of the tragedy

Photo Gallery – Prestige Shipwreck and oil spill 2002