Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Sean David Carter, 1990

Media Response to the Wreck of the Tanker "Arrow": Twenty Years Later


On February 4, 1970 the oil tanker "Arrow" ran aground in Chedabucto Bay, Nova Scotia. Attempts by industry and government to prevent the loss of its cargo of Bunker C oil were unsuccessful. The attempted clean-up was to last for the next two years and cost 4.5 million dollars. The environmental impact of the "Arrow" was judged to be minimal in 1970.

The news media and people of Canada saw the "Arrow" as a disaster in 1970. This response was their emotional reaction to the pollution of Chedabucto Bay. The degree and speed of response was greater in Nova Scotia newspapers than in the national press. Degree of response was inversely related to distance from Chedabucto Bay. Reports in newspapers composed the bulk of response, followed by editorials and letters to the editor. Daily newspapers had a greater amount of response than weeklies and biweeklies.

Radio and especially television were quicker to react to the "Arrow" and see the potential for pollution than were the newspapers. They filled a newspaper response gap for the first days of the spill.

The response to the "Arrow" in 1970 occurred at a "turning point" in the development of environmental awareness in Canada. Environmental awareness as evident in the response to the "Arrow" in 1970 was not as developed as it would be in 1990. The media would respond to the same degree only faster to an "Arrow" in 1990. Response would not be based as much on the fear of the unknown as it was in 1970 but more on the known environmental impacts of oil spills.