Sunday, August 21, 2005


Chaos in Guadalajara, Mexico when the city streets explode; an airplane crash outside of Paris that ranks as one of the worst in history; two mining dams in Italy collapse engulfing a village in a tidal wave of sludge; a generation of children in a small Texas town are entombed in the rubble of their school; an oil tanker runs aground off the coast of England and introduces the world to the devastation of the first super spill…

Engineering Disasters 16 will delve into the shocking chain events leading up to each of these horrific catastrophes and then examine the resulting technological improvements designed to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Large supertanker accidents have captured many a headline. In the 1990s there was on average more than one oil tanker spill every two weeks. But it was the catastrophic grounding of the oil tanker Torrey Canyon in the English Channel in 1967 that introduced the world to the age of the "superspill." The grounding was caused by a combination of a poorly designed auto pilot control and miscalculations by the ship's captain.

Auto pilot design was not improved until over twenty years later, after the Exxon Valdez accident was also partially attributed to the auto pilot's poor ergonomic design.


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