Exxonvaldezoilspill Essay Research Paper The Exxon Valdez

Exxon_valdez_oil_spill Essay, Research Paper

The Exxon Valdez oil tanker left the Trans Alaska Pipeline terminal at 9:12 PM March 23, 1989. The Exxon Valdez was the companies second newest tanker, it was 987 feet long and was carrying 53,094,510 gallons of crude oil. It’s destination, Long Beach California.

William Murphy, an expert ship’s pilot had been hired to steer the ship through the Valdez Narrows. Joe Hazelwood, the captain, and helmsman Harry Claar were also in the wheel house. Claar was steering. After successfully guiding the ship through the Valdez Narrows, Murphy left the vessel and Captain Hazelwood took over the wheel house. There were icebergs in the shipping lanes, so Captain Hazelwood ordered Claar to steer the Exxon Valdez out of the shipping lanes to go around the icebergs. He then handed over control of the wheel house to the third mate, Gregory Cousins, with specific instructions to return the ship back into the shipping lanes when the tanker reached a certain point. Claar was then replaced by Helmsman Robert Kagan. Cousins and Kagan failed to make the turn back into the shipping lanes at the point the captain had indicated. The mistake was noticed too late and at 12:04 AM the ship ran aground on Bligh Reef.

This accident can be attributed almost wholly to human error. The Valdez Narrows had been being used for 12 years and there had been more than 12,000 successful trips through the narrows. The crew of the Exxon Valdez had gotten slothful. Third Mate Cousins was suppose to have been relieved as he had been on duty for 6 hours and awake for the past 18 hours, but instead of waking the Second Mate for the midnight-4 shift he continued on duty himself. Cousins was also the only officer on the bridge which was against company rules. The Captain had been seen at a bar during the day and admitted to having some alcoholic drinks, but he has always claimed he was not drunk, even though traces of alcohol was found in his blood several hours after the accident.

The result of their carelessness was what has been called the worst oil spill ever in regards to damage to the environment. when the Exxon Valdez hit the reef, eight cargo tanks and two ballast tanks ruptured spilling 10.8 million gallons of crude oil into the sea. In comparison 10.8 million gallons is enough to fill 125 olimpic-sized swimming pools. The Exxon Valdez is the largest and most damaging oil spill in the United States. Over 1300 miles of shoreline was impacted and even today some of those solitary beaches remain oiled. From Blight reef where the Exxon Valdez ran aground, the oil spill stretched 470 miles (see maps). Wildlife in the area was dramatically reduced and most wildlife populations in the area have not recovered even today. It is estimated that 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs were killed. These are just some of the 23 species that were injured by the spill.

The cleanup effort, at its peak time, included approximately 10,000 workers, around 1,000 boats and about 100 airplanes and helicopters. Hundreds of people lined up along the beaches and sprayed the oil into the sea. During the first months they used scalding hot water, as it worked better to move the oil. It was discovered that the hot water was killing all of the small life on the beach and was doing more harm than good. Cold water was used thereafter. Once the oil was back in the sea it would be collected in several layers of booms using boats and barges. It was then either sucked up, scooped out, or sopped up using special oil-absorbing materiel. Many beaches were sprinkled with a special type of bacteria that eat the hydrocarbons found in oil. This method was successful on those beaches with lesser amounts of oil. Some chemicals and solvents were used also, but mainly for the birds and other wildlife. Hundreds of thousands of birds, mammals, and fish died as a result of the Exxon Valdez spill. Oil would get in fur and feathers, destroying the insulation and allowing for water to soak in. Once a birds feathers were soaked with oil and water, it could not fly because of the added weight. The birds would then either clean their feathers, dying from the poison oil they ate, or die in the water either from hypothermia or starvation. Not all of the damage was apparent. Eating small amounts of oil would affect animals in such ways as damaging the liver or causing blindness. This mades the handicapped creature incapable of competing for its own food. Oil also affects animals in non-deadly ways such as damaging reproduction. A professional crew and scores of volunteers set up a cleaning facility and recovery facility for sickly animals. Dawn dishwashing detergent was the main cleaning agent for the animals.


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