|"Mystery Oil Spill"
In November 2001, hundreds of seabirds began washing ashore Northern California beaches, dead or dying. It was bad enough that the birds were coated with oil, what made it worse was that the rescuers knew this was part of a pattern. For more than ten years oil would periodically appear out of nowhere. They called it the “San Mateo Mystery Spill” and it was to blame for killing tens of thousands of birds over the past decade.Toxicologists from the Department of Fish and Game ran tests on the oil collected from the birds. Much like testing human DNA, they were able to find the oil’s molecular “fingerprint.” Using the high-tech “fingerprinting” scientists matched the “mystery spills” as having the same origin. After numerous tests, investigators narrowed their sights on the Jacob Luckenbach - a freighter headed for Japan in 1953 that sank. The samples were a match for the oil on the birds from each mystery incident.