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T/V Exxon Valdez
Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
At four minutes past midnight, on March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez, loaded with 1,264,155 barrels of North Slope crude oil, ran aground on Bligh Reef in the northeastern portion of Prince William Sound. About one-fifth of the total cargo, 10.8 million gallons, spilled into the sea. After three days of calm weather and smooth seas, strong northeasterly winds arose and dispersed the oil beyond any hope of containment. Much of the oil was converted by wind-driven mixing of the oil and sea water into an emulsion known as mousse that will not burn and which is very difficult to remove from the surface of the sea or from shoreline. The spilled oil, now in the form of thin sheens and thick mousse, continued to spread to the southwest. The oil came ashore along an approximate 750 km (470 miles) trajectory that ran from Prince William Sound to the southern Kodiak Archipelago and Alaska Peninsula.
The distribution of the oil along the shoreline was discontinuous in coverage and variable in depth both on the surface and within the beach substrate. NOAA scientists estimated that 35% of the spilled oil evaporated, 40% was deposited on beaches within Prince William Sound, and 25% entered the Gulf of Alaska where it either became beached or was lost at sea (Galt et al., 1991). Field surveys conducted in the summer of 1989 identified 790 miles of shoreline within Prince William Sound which had been oiled, over 200 miles of which were classified as heavily oiled. In the Kenai Peninsula-Kodiak region, more than 2,400 miles of shoreline were found to be oiled. (EVOS Restoration Website)