Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 1989


Map Code: Ax02059

The Exxon Valdez supertanker was carrying 50 million tons of crude oil when, while attempting to navigate Prince William Sound in Alaska, it collided with the Bligh Reef on 24 March 1989, causing a spillage that would eventually reached 11 million gallons. At the time, it was the worst oil spill in North American history, although it would be exceeded in the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico (2010). Many glaring factors led to the disaster: the radar detection system was inoperative, the crew was undermanned and overworked, proper inspections were not conducted, and the captain was apparently drunk and insensible at the time of the accident. A range of clean-up techniques were deployed, including chemical dispersants, mechanical booms and skimmers, and high-pressure hot water. All these methods were only of limited utility; within eight weeks the effects of the spill, including wildlife deaths, contamination of shoreline habitats and water toxicity, were experienced at a range of 470 miles (750 km). Significant amounts of oil still persisted over a decade later.

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