Remembering the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez had just entered Alaska's Prince William Sound, after departing the Valdez Marine Terminal full of crude oil. At 12:04 am, the ship struck a reef, tearing open the hull and releasing 11 million gallons of oil into the environment. Initial responses by Exxon and the Alyeska Pipeline Company were insufficient to contain much of the spill, and a storm blew in soon after, spreading the oil widely. Eventually, more than 1,000 miles of coastline were fouled, and hundreds of thousands of animals perished. Exxon ended up paying billions in cleanup costs and fines, and remains tied up in court cases to this day. The captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was acquitted of being intoxicated while at the helm, but convicted on a misdemeanor charge of negligent discharge of oil, fined $50,000, and sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service. Though the oil has mostly disappeared from view, many Alaskan beaches remain polluted to this day, crude oil buried just inches below the surface.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

    Photos of the Week: Water Forest, Royal Barge, Abandoned Boxers

    A caged Nativity scene in California, the new prime minister of Finland, “big air” in Beijing, a volcanic eruption in New Zealand, Christmas lights in Philadelphia, and much more

  • Borut Zivulovic / Reuters

    A Visit From Krampus—Saint Nick’s Dark Companion

    While tales of Saint Nicholas feature him bringing gifts to good boys and girls, ancient folklore in Europe’s Alpine region also speaks of Krampus, a frightening beastlike creature who looks for naughty children to punish in horrible ways—or possibly to drag back to his lair in a sack.

  • 2019: The Year in Volcanic Activity

    Out of an estimated 1,500 active volcanoes, 50 or so erupt every year, spewing steam, ash, toxic gases, and lava.

  • Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Wayward Tee, Pollution Pod, Windy Wall

    Christmas lights in New York City, fall colors in Japan, a sandy traffic jam in Miami, the Tactual Museum of Athens, a Santa run in Glasgow, and much more