Exxon-ValdeZ Oil Spill Rebecca Semple and Logan Huffstutler

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill:

  • On March 24th, 1989 the 987 foot Exxon-Valdez tanker struck the Bligh reef of Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska.
  • A large hole was ripped in the side of the ship releasing over 10 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean.
  • The oil spread over 3,000 square miles and covered over 470 miles of shore.
  • Millions of animals such as birds, seals, bald eagles, killer whales and many more where killed or hurt in the oil.
  • A clean up effort was finally called off after four years, but oil still remains today.


  • One of the causes for the Exxon-Valdez oil spill was that the captain was drunk.
  • He was drinking near the time so he couldn't see where he was going and he missed his turn.
  • His actions eventually lead to the Exxon Valdez crashing into the Bligh Reef, ripping a hole in the side of the ship, causing the oil spill.
  • Another cause of the accident was that the drunk captain had handed the wheel to a third mate.
  • He was supposed to turn the wheel when the tanker had reached a certain point in the Valdez Narrows. Unfortunately the third mate failed to do his job.
  • When the captain realized, he tried to turn the wheel, but he was too late.
  • A third cause was that the third mate had turned the tanker to autopilot because he thought he was in the clear of all of the icebergs that were in the narrows.
  • But the autopilot wasn't working correctly and was leading the ship in the wrong direction.
  • They eventually made their way out of shipping lanes and due to a lack of radar coverage, the ship wasn't warned that they were in danger of hitting the reef.
  • The ship continued off course and eventually ran into the reef causing the oil spill.

Sea Otters:

  • Otters are dependent of the insulation their fur provides them.
  • Without insulation they die of hypothermia.
  • When the otters got coated in oil, their fur could not insulate them and may died.
  • The estimated death was around 40% of the total Otter population in Prince William Sound.
  • Even today there are still otters being harmed, as well as other species, due to lingering oil.
  • As of today the otter population is still in recovery.

Harbor Seals:

  • Many died of hypothermia because the oil stopped their fur from insulating them.
  • 80% of the seals in Prince William Sound were covered in oil.
  • Seal population declined by 43% after the spill.
  • Many seals also died because their food sources were limited do to all their prey dying in the oil.
  • As of today seals are considered to be recovered.

Harlequin Ducks:

  • Ingestion of oil killed and harmed many ducks.
  • Oil coated their feathers and many ingested the oil while trying the clean themselves.
  • They also ingested oil while trying to dig for their prey.
  • Over 150 ducks were initially killed by the oil, but the oil has caused many long term effects.
  • Still today some birds are being affected by the lingering oil.
  • Although some are still being affected, the population has recovered.


  • Oil directly affected only a few of the more sensitive species.
  • The clean up of the oil killed many more.
  • One of the treatments for the oil was hot water treatment. This treatment caused thermal stress to the clams which lead to the death of many.
  • Also the treatment displacement and buried many clams which hurt the population as well.
  • Clams are considered to be recovered as of today

High Pressure Hot or Cold Water Treatment:

  • They would spray water with fire hoses to move the oil from the shore and rocks
  • Once moved it could be trapped and removed.
  • This method was stopped quickly after they found out that it was doing more harm than the actual oil.


  • They fertilized the oiled areas to promote bacteria growth which in turn broke down the oil.
  • This method worked well on shores that had a small amount of oil.

Mechanical Cleanup:

  • Heavy equipment such as backhoes were used to mix up the dirt and oil so the oil was exposed.
  • Once they had the oil exposed they were able to wash some of it out.

Explosion Method:

  • They would light exposed oil of fire.
  • It would burn and reduce the amount of oil on the water.


  • One thing that people are doing to prevent accidents like the Exxon Valdez oil spill from happening again is building new ships with better hulls.
  • They are making the hulls thicker and bigger so when the ship hits something that is in the water it won’t be penetrated or penetrated as badly.
  • They have also made sure that the radar contact for ships traveling through the Valdez narrows is constant so the ships cannot get off course.

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