Imagine yourself as a killer whale. You are swimming around when you decide to stick your head out of the water to take a breath. As you are taking a breath, you see a large stream of thick black oil heading your way. You go back under water only to find other animals dying one by one because the oil is damaging their bodies.
This is the way some animals must die in the ocean. They die because of an oil spill occurring in their habitat
What’s an oil spill?
Oil spills happen when people make mistakes or are careless and cause an oil tanker to leak oil into the ocean. There are a few more ways an oil spill can occur. Equipment breaking down may cause an oil spill. If the equipment breaks down, the tanker may get stuck on shallow land. When they start to drive the tanker again, they can put a hole in the tanker causing it to leak oil.
When countries are at war, one country may decide to dump gallons of oil into the other country’s oceans.
Terrorists may cause an oil spill because they will dump oil into a country’s ocean. Many terrorists will do this because they are trying to get the country’s attention, or they are trying to make a point to a country.
Illegal dumpers are people that will dump crude oil into the oceans because they do not want to spend money on decomposing their waste oil. Because they won’t spend money on breaking up the oil (decomposing it) they will dump oil into the oceans, which is illegal.
Natural disasters (like hurricanes) may cause an oil spill, too. If a hurricane was a couple of miles away, the winds from the hurricane could cause the oil tanker to flip over, pouring oil out.
What affects do oil spills have on animals?
Birds die from oil spills if their feathers are covered in oil. The bird will then be poisoned because it will try to clean itself. Animals may die because they get hypothermia, causing their body temperature to be really low. They may die from really low body temperature. Oil may also cause the death of an animal by entering the animal’s lungs or liver. The animal will then be poisoned by the oil. Oil also can kill an animal by blinding it. The animal will not be able to see and be aware of their predators. If they are not aware of other animals, they may be eaten.
Oil spills sometimes are the reason for animals becoming endangered. This means that a certain type of animal is getting so small that it is in danger of becoming extinct.
Seabirds are strongly affected by oil spills. A seabird may get covered in the oil. The thick black oil is too heavy for the birds to fly, so they attempt to clean themselves. The bird then eats the oil to clean its feathers and poisons itself. If workers have found sea birds that are not dead because of oil, they will take the birds to a cleaning center or captivity where they are kept in a facility because they can not live in the wild on their own. Animals that are in captivity because of an oil spill will be cleaned by professionals and volunteers. When a bird is in captivity, the oil will be flushed from its eyes, intestines, and feathers. The bird will be examined for any more injuries like broken bones, and it will take a medicine to prevent any more damage.
After the bird seems healthier, it will take a test on its abilities to float in the water and keep water away from its body. As soon as the bird passes its test, it will soon be let out into the wild.
Sea otters are affected by oil in many ways. The otters’ bodies may get covered in oil, which causes build up in the otters’ air bubbles. These air bubbles are located in their fur and help them survive the cold oceans. They act like a covering for their body and help the otters to float. When oil builds up in the air bubbles, the otters may die of low body temperature. Many sea otters are being placed in captivity after an oil spill until the otters are cleaned and ready to live in the ocean again.
Oil spills are one of the many ways killer whales have become endangered. The oil may be eaten or enter the whale’s blowhole. A blowhole is a hole to help them breath. Whales will rise up over the water to take a breath. If the blowhole is plugged with oil, the whale can not breathe. The main reason for whales dying because of a spill happens when they eat a fish that swam through the oil. If a fish swam through the oil, the whale will eat the oil along with the fish. Because the whale has eaten the oil, it will be poisoned, and it will die.
Many people don’t realize all the animals in the ocean that oil spills affect. Plankton, larval fish, and bottom dwelling organisms are strongly affected. Even seaweed, clams, oysters, and mussels can be affected by oil spills. Only off- shore accidents can really cause the death of these small living creatures because this is mainly the home for these small organisms.
When hundreds of plankton die because of oil, that specie of animal may become extinct. Then, fish won’t be able to eat the plankton, so they will become extinct. A killer whale could then become extinct because it can’t eat the fish.
This is what happens when a specie from animal becomes extinct of a large oil spill. The oil spills can damage the entire food chain in the area.
What is the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill?
The Exxon Valdez incident was a major oil spill. This oil spill took place on March 23, 1989 at Prince William Sound in Alaska.
How did it happen?
The drivers of the Exxon Valdez noticed icebergs in their planned route. Instead of trying to weave through the icebergs, they decided to go in another direction. On the new route, the oil tanker hit shallow land. The shallow land was not a beach, it was called Bligh Reef.
Imagine an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The Exxon Valdez spilled about 125 Olympic-sized swimming pools. You also can think of it as 108 homes or 430 classrooms. 797 living rooms or 9 school gyms can explain about how much oil was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
How did the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill affect the animals at Prince William Sound?
The Exxon Valdez affected many animals at Prince William Sound in Alaska. The spill greatly affected sea otters and sea birds. There were about 2,800 sea otters and 250,000 seabirds killed by the spill. Harbor seals, bald eagles, killer whales, and salmon were also greatly affected by the spill.
Many people complained about the large amount of sea otters dumped in crude oil because Prince William Sound was a tourist attraction. Many people came to Prince William Sound to visit the animals.
How many animals are recovering after ten years?
The table below shows all the animals that are not recovering, recovered, recovering, and that the recovering is unknown. It shows that only two species had recovered ten years after the spill. It also shows how many animals are still recovering ten years later.
How long did it take to clean the up spill?
Because the spill impacted 1,300 miles, it took the Exxon Valdez Company four summers to clean up the spill. Some oil may still remain on the beaches. It took 10,000 workers, 1,000 boats, 100 airplanes, and the Navy, Army, and Air Force to clean up the spill. Exxon spent about $2.1 billion for the clean up.
The oil flow of the Exxon Valdez
Look at the diagram below. This diagram shows where the oil flowed and how far it flowed through Alaska. The map also tells you where the oil spill started in Alaska, which would be in Prince William Sound.
What is a doubled hulled ship?
A doubled-hulled ship is used for taking oil from one place to another. This boat contains two layers. One layer is where the oil is stored. Another layer surrounds it. If there were a crack in the boat, it wouldn’t have a large affect on the animals because not that much oil would spill as if it was a regular tanker. The crack would have to go through another layer in order to get to the oil.
Look at the diagram to the left, and it will give you an idea of what a doubled-hulled ship looks like. As you see, the boat has two layers. The middle layer holds all the oil. When there is a crack in the outer layer, it won’t cause any oil to spill out.
If you look at the regular tanker to the right, you will see that there only has to be one crack in the tanker in order to leak. This shows that a doubled-hulled ship will not have such a large chance of causing a spill.
Why didn’t the Exxon Valdez have a double hull?
If the Exxon Valdez were a doubled-hulled ship, the chance of an oil spill would be 60% smaller. They wouldn’t have a great spill in the ocean.
If the chances of a spill would be much smaller, why didn’t the Exxon Valdez buy a doubled-hulled ship? A doubled-hulled ship costs $300,000,000 in America. A regular oil tanker costs about $200,000,000. The Exxon company decided to wait until the year 2015 in order to buy a doubled-hulled ship. The Law says that every tanker must be a double hull ship by 2015.
Were there any other major spills around the world?
There have been other major spills around the world. The table below gives you a few oil spills that have occurred around the world. As you see, these oil spills have occurred in many different places. None of them seem to be near each other. You can also see how of the largest spills occurred in the 90’s.The table shows you that many spills have spilled over 10,000 tons of oil.
There has recently been an oil spill on May 9, 2001 in the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are located off the coast of Ecuador. The tanker, Jessica, tipped over pouring 240,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.
Workers used chemicals to break down the oil. If the oil is able to reach the bottom of the ocean, it might take at least two years to clean. Sea lions, pelican, seagulls, sea urchins, and seaweed have been affected by this spill. Workers used soap to clean the fur and feathers of hurt animals and milk for the animals’ heads because it wouldn’t hurt the animals’ eyes.
A couple months after the Jessica oil spill, scientists are studying different things about the spill. Some scientists are studying 650 different sites and seeing which sites were affected by the spill. They are trying to find out where the oil impacted and the animals that were and weren’t affected so they can learn more about the effects of oil spills.
How do they clean up the oil on the beaches or the water after a spill?
There are many ways to stop the spread of oil in the ocean. Workers can place a boom around the tanker that is spilling oil. Booms collect the oil off the water. A boom may be placed somewhere before an oil spill. They can be placed around an entrance to the ocean, like a stream. They also can be placed around a habitat with many animals living there. These booms will absorb any oil that flows around it.
The workers can also use skimmers. Skimmers are boats that can remove the oil off the water. Sorbents are sponges that can collect the oil. An airplane can fly over the water dropping chemicals into the ocean. The chemicals can break down the oil into the ocean.
They also can burn freshly spilled oil with fireproof booms to contain the oil. They might not decide to burn the oil because this method causes air pollution.
There are just a few ways to clean the oil off the beaches. Workers can use high or low pressure hoses to spray the oil that is on the beaches. Vacuum trucks may be driven on the beaches to vacuum up the oil. They can also simply use shovels or road equipment to collect all the oil off the beaches.
The method they use to clean the beaches or oceans depends on many things. They have to look at the weather, the type and amount of oil spilled, if people live in that area, what types of animals live in that area, and many more things. In some situations, they may not react to a spill. It may not be helpful or it would just cause even more damage to that habitat.
How do they clean animals after a spill?
There are many ways that animals are cleaned after an oil spill. When birds arrive at the cleaning center, the oil is flushed from the eyes and the intestines. They will also be examined for any broken bones, cuts, or any other injuries. Next, they will get a stomach-coating medicine to prevent any more oil from entering birds’ stomachs. Birds will then be warmed and placed in a quiet area.
Birds need to eat so they have some nutrition while they are recovering. Some animals might eat off a pan. Others may be forced to eat by a worker before they can feed themselves.
When a bird appears to be normal, it is allowed to swim. The bird will then trim and clean its own feathers to bring them back to their normal body structure. This will help the bird swim again. Next, the bird will have to pass a waterproof test. If the bird passes, it will slowly be introduced to the temperatures outside. In the test, the bird must show the ability to float and the ability to keep the water away from its body. Before they let the bird go, they must check it to make sure that its muscular structure is average for its species and the birds have no disease. Then the birds are released into the wild.
When sea otters are taken to a cleaning facility, the heavy oiled otters will be washed first. Workers will wash the otters with warm water because they hope it will break down the oil. The warm water also can warm the otters up. The otters also will get medical treatment while they are being cleaned. The otters will then have to wait so they can dry.
After their fur is dry, they have to stay a few more days so the workers are sure of no diseases or broken bones.
Helping and Saving the Sea Life Today
Have you ever stopped to think what you use oil for? Every one uses oil a lot. The whole world uses nearly three billion gallons of oil every day. We all use it to fuel our cars, trucks, buses, and even to heat our homes. If you have touched a chain on a bicycle, you have touched some oil. The black stuff that appears on your fingers is an oil that makes the chains on your bike run smoothly. We use oil to make asphalt which can help us pave our roads. You can get examples of oil at a toy store, a hardware store, or a drugstore, because oil is made into plastics, which could be any of your toys or CD players. Oil is also used in medicines, ink, paints, and to create some electricity. We all can help stop oil spills happening in the oceans. If you use less oil, then less will have to be transported. We can use less oil by not using our cars when we can walk or ride a bike. We also can use less oil by paving the roads with cement. That way we are not using oil.
Think about how many lights you have in your house. Also think about all the electronics like computers or televisions. All of these things use electricity. If we all were to turn off lights, computers, or televisions when not in use, we wouldn’t be using as mush oil to create the electricity throughout the house.
There are many things being done to prevent more spills. The US Congress passed OPA (Ocean Pollution Act) 90 (in 1990). The OPA 90’s major laws are:
As you see, there are many things being done to prevent oil spills. If everyone around the world decided to use less oil, we would lower the risk of a large spill. If there were a spill, we wouldn’t be dumping as much oil into the ocean, which would mean that there would be fewer animals killed or injured. You can also help decrease oil spills by using less electricity and gasoline, which are both made with oil.
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