Tides of War – Eco Disaster in the Gulf, 1990-1992

First Broadcast: National Geographic Television USA and Channel 4

Distribution: McKinnon Films

Running Time: Approx. 52 minutes

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the tragic loss of human life was compounded by a deliberate and massive sabotage of the environment. What had been called the “mother of all battles” was ultimately waged against the mother of all – the earth herself.

“Tides of War” presents the rich and varied marine life of the Gulf, the delicate beauty of the desert and with the outbreak of war, follows the escalating catastrophe from the first oil slick to the capping of the last burning oil well.

We reveal the relentless passage of the slicks along hundreds of miles of coastline, as they destroy the most productive habitats of the sea, turning the tidal shallows into a wasteland. Rescuers struggle to save thousands of polluted birds and to clean the beaches before the turtles return to their ancient breeding sites.

Hundreds of burning wells flood the desert with ever expanding lakes of oil and create a vast wall of smoke and soot, confounding millions of migrating birds and blocking their traditional pathways along the Gulf.

As the fire fighting teams confront the disaster we follow Kuwaiti Petroleum engineer, Sarah Akbar, and her colleagues as they battle to control the burning wells.

No one can be sure how much of the desert will bloom again, whether the delicately poised ecology of the Gulf has been permanently disturbed, or when the bitter legacy of the Tides of War will be washed away.

Main Species

Sea Snake, Mudskipper, Mangroves, Salt Marshes, Cuttlefish, Turtles, Houbara Bustard, Cormorants, Grebes, White Heron, Tern


Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain


Emmy Award, New York, USA, September 1993
Winner in the category: ‘Outstanding Background Analysis of a Single Current Story’

15th International Wildlife Film Festival, Missoula, USA, 1992
Best of Festival, Best of Category ­ Special Category:
‘Alternative Coverage of a Current Event’
Merit Award for Visual Impact

I.Ci.Mar Film Festival of the Sea, Sardinia, Italy 1992
First Prize ­ The Gold Trophy ‘The Dolphins of the Thyrrenian Sea’

Festival of Ornithological Films of Menigoute, France 1992
‘Grand Prix’

World Fest, Houston, USA, 1992
Certificate of Merit Finalist in the category: ‘Ecology/Environment/Conservation’

Columbus International Film Festival 1992
Chris Award


  • Producer/ Director: Michael McKinnon
  • Narrator: Richard Kiley
  • Principal Photography: John Bulmer
  • Composer: Robert Boyle
  • Script: Nancy Le Burn
  • Editor: John Hackney
All content © McKinnon Films 2020