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Looking back at the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 and its lasting wounds

Updated : 2019-03-24 19:59:14

It was just after midnight on March 24, 1989, when an Exxon Shipping Co. tanker ran aground outside the town of Valdez, Alaska, spewing millions of gallons of thick, toxic crude oil into the pristine Prince William Sound.

The world watched the aftermath unfold: scores of herring, sea otters and birds soaked in oil, and hundreds of miles of shoreline polluted. Commercial fishermen in the area saw their careers hit bottom.

This month marks 30 years since the disaster, at the time the largest oil spill in US history. Only the 2010 Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has eclipsed it.

In this April 1989, file photo, an oil-covered bird is examined on an island in Prince William Sound, Alaska.  (AP Photo/Jack Smith, File)
In this April 1989, file photo, an oil-covered bird is examined on an island in Prince William Sound, Alaska.  (AP Photo/Jack Smith, File)
In this file photo, around 200 people showed up at Fiesta Island in San Diego, to protest the use of Exxon products.  (AP Photo/Brent Clingman, File)
In this file photo, around 200 people showed up at Fiesta Island in San Diego, to protest the use of Exxon products.  (AP Photo/Brent Clingman, File)
People carry signs to protest the Exxon oil spill in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Marion Stirrup, File)
People carry signs to protest the Exxon oil spill in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Marion Stirrup, File)
Thick crude oil that washed up on the cobble beach of Evans Island sticks to the boots and pants of a local fisherman in Prince William Sound, Alaska.  (AP Photo/John Gaps III, File)
Thick crude oil that washed up on the cobble beach of Evans Island sticks to the boots and pants of a local fisherman in Prince William Sound, Alaska.  (AP Photo/John Gaps III, File)
The grounded tanker Exxon Valdez, left, unloads oil onto a smaller tanker, San Francisco, as efforts to refloat the ship continue on Prince William Sound.  (AP Photo/Rob Stapleton, File)
The grounded tanker Exxon Valdez, left, unloads oil onto a smaller tanker, San Francisco, as efforts to refloat the ship continue on Prince William Sound.  (AP Photo/Rob Stapleton, File)
Crews use high pressured hoses to blast the rocks on this beachfront on Naked Island, Alaska.  (AP Photo/Rob Stapleton, File)
Crews use high pressured hoses to blast the rocks on this beachfront on Naked Island, Alaska.  (AP Photo/Rob Stapleton, File)
Sea lions get oil on them as they swim in the water and sit on the rock at Prince William Sound, Alaska. (AP Photo/Jack Smith, File)
Sea lions get oil on them as they swim in the water and sit on the rock at Prince William Sound, Alaska. (AP Photo/Jack Smith, File)
A worker makes his way across the polluted shore of Block Island, Alaska, as efforts are underway to test techniques to clean up the oil spill of the tanker Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound.  (AP Photo/John Gaps III, File)
A worker makes his way across the polluted shore of Block Island, Alaska, as efforts are underway to test techniques to clean up the oil spill of the tanker Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound.  (AP Photo/John Gaps III, File)
Crude oil from the tanker Exxon Valdez, top, swirls on the surface of Alaska's Prince William Sound near Naked Island, days after the tanker ran aground, spilling millions of gallons of oil and causing widespread environmental damage. (AP Photo/John Gaps III, File)
Crude oil from the tanker Exxon Valdez, top, swirls on the surface of Alaska's Prince William Sound near Naked Island, days after the tanker ran aground, spilling millions of gallons of oil and causing widespread environmental damage. (AP Photo/John Gaps III, File)
A local fisherman inspects a dead California grey whale on the northern shore of Latouche Island, Alaska. The whale was found in the oil-contaminated waters of Prince William Sound. (AP Photo/John Gaps III, File)
A local fisherman inspects a dead California grey whale on the northern shore of Latouche Island, Alaska. The whale was found in the oil-contaminated waters of Prince William Sound. (AP Photo/John Gaps III, File)
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