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NOAA Drift Cards Found 45 Years Later

AUGUST 30, 2021 ─ Forty-five years ago, on December 15, 1976, the tanker Argo Merchant ran aground near Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. The ship later broke up, spilling 7.6 million gallons of #6 Fuel Oil.  

Map showing Atlantic Ocean where drift cards were found.
This map shows the locations where drift cards were found: (1) Oleron Island, France and (2) Terceira Island in the Azores (Portugal). Image credit: NOAA.

To help understand the fate of the oil, NOAA researchers released thousands of plastic drift cards into the ocean off Nantucket. In the years following the spill, these cards were found in many locations in the U.K. and Europe.  

OR&R still receives occasional emails from beachcombers finding these relics, including one found in Cornwall, England in 2014. We have received no reports since then, but in the past month, we have received two new reports, from France (August 8) and the Azores, Portugal (August 14).  

Standby for a longer report on this on our blog, but we wanted to share these exciting finds!

For more information, contact Doug.Helton@noaa.gov or Donna.L.Roberts@noaa.gov.

Last updated Monday, September 13, 2021 8:03am PDT