When Ron Winslow covered the Argo Merchant oil spill for the Providence Journal in 1976, the threat of 7(apple) million gallons of oil washing ashore on Cape Cod may have been an exciting story. But the spill ""was not the major environmental catastrophe that many had predicted,"" no lives were lost, and Winslow can only conclude that ""indeed the Argo Merchant revealed our helplessness"" in dealing with such incidents. After the earlier Torrey Canyon disaster off the English coast, the federal government began studying the problem, and subsequent accidents off California and Florida resulted in a national strike force to deal with oil spills. But the Argo Merchant--four months overdue for a Liberian inspection at the time of the accident, and considered ""suspect"" by the Coast Guard because of previous oil spills--has had no such significance. One month after the accident, the Coast Guard did begin inspecting all foreign vessels entering U.S. waters, ""prompted specifically by the explosion of the tanker Sansinena in Los Angeles Harbor."" not by the Argo Merchant. Even the cause is apparently still undetermined--human error vs. the ship's unseaworthiness--with probable court appeals ahead. This is a long, unresolved story providing little enlightenment.