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Exxon Valdez Spill, 15 Years Later: Damage Lingers

It was 9:12 p.m. on March 23, 1989, when the Exxon Valdez left the trans-Alaska pipeline terminal in Valdez, Alaska, carrying more than 53 million gallons (200 million liters) of crude oil bound for Long Beach, California.

It seemed like a routine run. Ships had safely transited through the area more than 8,700 times in the 12 years since oil began flowing through the pipeline.

But this evening, the 986-foot (300-meter) Exxon Valdez encountered icebergs in the shipping lanes. Capt. Joe Hazelwood, who later admitted to having had several alcoholic drinks that day, ordered a helmsman to go around the icebergs. After leaving instructions on when to steer the ship back into the shipping lanes, Hazelwood retired to his quarters.

That was a terrible mistake. The helmsmen failed to make the turn back into the shipping lanes. Three hours after taking off, the ship ran aground on Bligh Reef, rupturing 8 of its 11 cargo tanks. The ship spewed some 11 million gallons (40 million liters) of crude oil into the pristine Prince William Sound, causing the biggest environmental disaster in United States history.

More here.

One lingering question is the health effects on clean-up crews and others humans in the Sound. Anyone have any info?

March 23, 2004 in alaska | Permalink