On March 24, 1989 at 4 minutes past midnight, the oil tanker ExxonValdez struck a reef in Alaska's breath-taking Prince William Sound. Instantaneously, the quiet waters of the sound became a sea of black. "We've fetched up - ah - hard aground north of Goose Island off Bligh Reef, and - ah - evidently leaking some oil," Joseph Hazelwood, captain of the ship, radioed the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office back in Valdez. That "some oil" turned out to be a total of 11,000,000 gallons of crude oil leaking from the ruptured hull of the ship. By the time a containment effort was put forth, a weather storm had helped to spread the oil as much as three feet thick across 1,400 miles of beaches.
A little over ten years have passed since the largest oil spill and the greatest environmental disaster in American history, but the waters and its surroundings are still recovering. At first, many people repeated what was then thought as common knowledge, "oil dissi...