The Exxon Valdez was a ship that was carrying around 200 million litres of crude oil. At around 12:04am on March 24 th 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground at Prince William Sound Bligh Reef, in Alaska and spilled around 40.9 million litres of this oil.
9.13 pm, March 24 th 1989, the Exxon Valdez was bound for Long Beach in California. The shipping lane was at the time obstructed by icebergs, so the Shipmaster asked, and was granted permission to use the inbound lane.Around 11 pm, Shipmaster left the Third mate and another shipmate at the helm. The ship was on autopilot and about 12 pm, the Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef. Around 41 million litres of crude oil was spilled.
The Exxon Valdez encountered icebergs in the shipping lanes and Captain Hazelwood ordered Claar to take the Exxon Valdez out of the shipping lanes to go around the ice. He then handed over control of the wheelhouse to Third Mate Gregory Cousins with precise instructions to turn back into the shipping lanes when the tanker reached a certain point. At that time, Claar was replaced by Helmsman Robert Kagan. For reasons that remain unclear, Cousins and Kagan failed to make the turn back into the shipping lanes and the ship ran aground on Bligh Reef at 12:04 a.m., March 24, 1989. Captain Hazelwood was in his quarters at the time.
Many consequences came from this large oil spill.Most of the oil was released within 6 hours of running aground and the trend was that the oil moved south and west from the point of origin and for the first few days predominately all the oil was sitting just off Bligh Island in a concentrated patch. On March 26th a large storm weathered and spread the oil over a large area, so by March 30th the oil extended 90 miles from the spill site. From Bligh Reef, the spill stretched 470 miles southwest to the village of Chignik on the Alaskan Peninsular.
Approximately 1,300 miles of shoreline were oiled. 200 miles were heavily or moderately oiled. The spill region contained 9,000 miles of shoreline. Due to the Spring tidal fluctuations the tides were coming up higher than normal depositing oil above the normal zone on the shoreline. Also the variation in shoreline meant that the oil did different things making the clean up difficult.
Marine Mammals and seabirds, due to their regular contact with the ocean surface are the most affected by the oil slick. Oiling of fur and feathers can lead to death through loss of insulation, hyperthermia, smothering, drowning, and ingestion of toxic hydrocabons. Scientists estimate mass mortalities of 1000 to 2800 sea otters, 302 harbor seals, and unprecedented numbers of seabird deaths estimated at 250,000 in the days immediately after the oil spill. Mass mortality also occurred among macroalgae and benthic invertebrates on oiled shores from a combination of chemical toxicity, smothering, and physical displacement from the habitat by pressurized wash-water applied after the spill.
In 1989, hoses spraying seawater were used to flush oil from shorelines. The released oil was then trapped with offshore boom, and removed using skimmers and vacuum trucks. For hard to reach areas, or locations with weathered oil, heated seawater was used to flush oil from the shoreline.
Manual cleanup was a big part of the shoreline treatment
The process cleaned up 25,000 tons of oiled waste.
Clean-up attempts can be more damaging than the oil itself
Oil that penetrates deeply into beaches can remain relatively fresh for years and can later come back to the surface and affect nearby animals.
Rocky rubble shores should be of high priority for protection and cleanup because oil tends to penetrate deep and weather very slowly
The U.S. Coast Guard now monitors fully-laden tankers via satellite as they pass through Valdez Narrows
Two escort vessels accompany each tanker while passing through the entire Sound
Specially trained marine pilots, with considerable experience in Prince William Sound, board tankers from their new pilot station at Bligh Reef
Congress enacted Congress enacted legislation requiring that all tankers in Prince William Sound be double-hulled by the year 2015legislation requiring that all tankers in Prince William Sound be double-hulled by the year 2015
Contingency planning for oil spills in Prince William Sound must now include a scenario for a spill of 12.6 million gallons. Drills are held in the Sound each year.