On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker named Exxon Valdez crashed into a reef in the Prince William Sound and leaked 11 million gallons of crude oil into the water. A storm then blew much of the oil south and west of Valdez, further into Prince William Sound. In 2010, people could still see oil seeping out of the beach with just a little bit of shoveling on Eleanor Island, about 56 miles away from Valdez.
The Atlantic put together an impressive collection of photos about the oil spill with this article:
To us, the most astounding aspect of this oil spill was discovering how insignificant it is in the history of oil spills. It is the second-largest oil spill in US history. The 11 million gallons spilled by the Exxon Valdez are dwarfed by the Deepwater Horizon estimated leak of 206 million gallons (which is thought to be ongoing). Even more impressive is how small it is in the list of oil spills worldwide. Depending on your source, it’s listed as anywhere between the 36th-48th largest spill in history. Here’s a map of all the world’s oil spills up to 2010, according to Chartsbin.com (we have no idea how reliable this is, but it seems to match up with all other available information about worldwide oil spills).
“Both the long-term and short-term effects of the oil spill have been studied. Immediate effects included the deaths of 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, and an unknown number of salmon and herring.”
We’ve been lucky enough to view almost all of the animals in that list in the 8 weeks we’ve been here, and we’re really glad they’re not completely gone. Also, people who help clean up oil spills deserve a hefty dose of good karma.