The oil spill happened on March 24, 1989 . An oil tanker named the Exxon Valdez ran into Bligh Reef. Oil spilled from the tanker into Prince William Sound. It spilled 11.3 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. The oil contaminated over 1,500 miles of coastline. It was the biggest oil spill that ever happened in North America.
We interviewed Mrs. Grimes, who worked helping to clean up the oil. She said that on the beach she worked on they used large hoses to spray oil off the rocks as the tide was going out. When the tide came back in, they would take a break, and begin again when the tide went out. Other people on the beach got down on their hands and knees and wiped oil off of rocks with rags.
The animals that lived where the oil spilled occurred were covered with oil. Many of the birds and sea otters died after they were soaked with oil. They tried to save as many animals as they could. Did you know that the oil killed about 30,000 birds and somewhere between 3500 to 5500 sea otters? Some scientists think that even more were killed but floated out to sea and sank. Many other plants and animals were also affected by the oil.
The Exxon Corporation spent about $2.5 billion to clean up the mess. About 11,000 people worked to clean up the oil spill. Oil doesn't mix with water like salt does. It either stays on top or sinks to the bottom. One way they tried to clean up the oil was to vacuum it up from the surface of the water. Another way was to set up booms that would stop the oil from spreading. People also hand washed rocks and used hoses to try and clean off the oil. They also used fertilizer to try and get the oil to break up faster. This is called bioremediation. Thousands of people helped to clean Alaska's beaches.
Interesting fact: If you let your kitchen faucet run on full blast all the time for ten years, that would be as much oil that was spilled.
This is a map of where the oil went after it spilled.