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On March 24th, 1989, the supertanker Exxon Valdez crashed into a reef and ran aground in Alaska’s remote Prince William Sound. 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Sound and onto its beaches. Entire habitats were devastated. Hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, otters, and, other marine animals were killed. And the lifestyles and livelihoods of human communities nearby were irrevocably changed.
In the aftermath, the disaster was framed as an isolated mistake, but the truth it is, it was an accident waiting to happen. Lax oversight of the oil industry in the remote and vulnerable landscape permitted a number of failures on Exxon’s part, including a failure to provide a rested crew, a working radar system on the ship, and effective services to escort the enormous ship through Prince William Sound. Even now, 25 years later, thousands of gallons of oil remain in Prince William Sound, and wildlife populations have still not recovered.
Over the next few days, Greenpeace USA will be taking time to remember the Exxon Valdez spill and the people and wildlife it affected. And as always, we are doing our best to make sure disasters like it don’t continue to happen.
Sadly, they do continue to happen. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster off Louisiana’s coast four years ago released even more oil than the Exxon Valdez. In the case of both disasters, the exact extent of the spills and their damage will probably never be known.