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Tampico Maru; Northern Baja California, about 1 mile north of Punta Cabras

Northern Baja California, about 1 mile north of Punta Cabras | 1957-Mar-29

Initial Notification: The Tampico Maru (henceforth Tampico) left Los Angeles Harbor in latter March 1957, bound for Japan, and loaded with dark diesel oil supplied by Union Oil of California (now known as Unocal). The vessel was old and the oceanic crossing was scheduled to be her final journey. After delivery of her cargo, the ship was destined for destruction as scrap. Shortly following departure, a welded seam ruptured between two steel plates on the starboard side, well above the water line. The U.S. harbor authorities refused permission to return to Los Angeles. The vessel then proceeded to Ensenada Harbor in Baja California to have the ruptured seam repaired by welding. Authorities in Ensenada refused permission to have the repair work done within the Harbor so welders were taken aboard and the ship proceeded offshore an estimated 60 miles to have the welding accomplished. At this distance offshore, the vessel may have been situated within the influence of the southward-flowing California Current System. Welding repairs were completed successfully. Unfortunately, a dense fog settled throughout the region. A single sun sight was made within the two days offshore, to establish the ship's position. On this basis, a return to Ensenada was undertaken to offload the welders. In the early morning hours of March 29 1957, the vessel struck the coast at a location about 64 km south of Ensenada Harbor. The bow grounded against one side of the entrance to a small cove on a predominantly rocky shore. The stern apparently swung around and stuck on a shallow spot midway across the cove (henceforth Tampico cove) entrance. The hull thus served as a breakwater across about 2/3 of the cove entrance, creating fairly calm conditions landward of the hull. The crew and passengers were able to disembark and reach shore safely in the lee of the hull. A portion of the oil cargo was liberated at the time of grounding. The remainder escaped over the next 6-9 months as the ship was slowly torn asunder by pounding surf. The location was in a remote section of coastline so no countermeasures were taken to remove a portion of the cargo or lessen ensuing pollution of the shore. A few shacks scattered along the coast here housed native fishermen and their families. The site was accessible by an extremely rough road, best negotiated by 4-wheel drive vehicles. The main paved highway ran about 10-20 miles inland and the trip from there to the study site required 2-3 hours. Keyword: accidental grounding, diesel oil, mixing by surf.

Incident Details
Products of concern:diesel oil - approx. 80% heavy distillate, 20% residual fuel oil
Latitude (approximate): 31° 20.00′ North
Longitude (approximate): 116° 28.02′ West