The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill—which fouled the waters of Prince William Sound, coated more than a thousand miles of pristine coastline, and killed hundreds of thousands of birds, fish and animals—has become a symbol of human-caused environmental disasters. Many years after the accident, and despite billions of dollars spent on cleanup efforts, crude oil can still be found under the rocks and sand on the beaches of southwest Alaska, and the effects of the spill are still apparent in the lasting damage done to many native species.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill took place just after midnight on March 24, 1989 in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, a pristine area that is home to many species of fish, birds and marine mammals. Prince William Sound is part of the Gulf of Alaska. It is located on the south coast of Alaska, just east of the Kenai Peninsula.
The oil tanker Exxon Valdez spilled an estimated 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into the waters of Prince William Sound after striking Bligh Reef at approximately 12:04 a.m. on March 24, 1989. The oil spill eventually covered 11,000 square miles of ocean, extended 470 miles southwest, and coated 1,300 miles of coastline.
Hundreds of thousands of birds, fish and animals died right away, including somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 seabirds, thousands of sea otters, hundreds of harbor seals and bald eagles, a couple of dozen killer whales, and a dozen or more river otters.
Cleanup efforts washed away much of the visible damage of the Exxon Valdez oil spill within the first year, but the environmental effects of the spill are still being felt. In the years since the accident, scientists have noted higher death rates among sea otters and some other species affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill and stunted growth or other damage among others.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill is considered one of the worst human-caused marine environmental disasters ever to occur. The Exxon Valdez oil spill also...