Environment: The Black Tide

France fights an oily enemy

For 45 minutes, hovering and circling over the sea, French navy helicopters dropped load after load of depth charges. They were striking back at a very real enemy, the wreck of the American-owned supertanker Amoco Cadiz, which had leaked oil for two weeks after history's biggest spill.

High winds and heavy seas had prevented French authorities from pumping out the supertanker's remaining 15,000 tons of oil (of an original 220,000 tons). Efforts to release the trapped crude with explosives planted by divers under the ship's surviving tanks had failed. So, amid a rising national clamor for action, officials...

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