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It was early morning March 24 1989 an oil tanker the Exxon Valdez was en route from the Valdez oil terminal through Prince William Sound The captain Joseph Hazelwood radioed in to say he was changing course He did this in order to avoid small icebergs He received permission to move to the northbound lane Now the Captain had been prior known to have had a drinking problem He told his third mate Gregory Cousins to begin steering while he retired to his cabin Mr Cousins was not qualified to steer the ship in those Alaskan waters and when he hit the Bligh reef it was because the ship did not turn sharply enough The reason that it did not turn sharply enough is not exactly known There are suggestions that Cousins gave the order to late or it could be because the Alyeska Corporation decided to keep their costs down by not upgrading the radar system on the ship At any rate the hull of the ship cracked and within a two-day period approximately eleven million gallons of crude oil were spilled into the Alaskan waters Much of this oil eventually accumulated on the shoreline and killed tens if not hundreds of thousands of birds as well as salmon and herring and sea mammals one of which being the sea otters which were almost wiped out by this Unfortunatly the response to this was hesitant as the Alyeska Corporation was not prepared for such a disaster However they did get many people out attempting to clean up they used booms They took amount of the oil in fire resistant booms and lit it up once they were far enough away to not ignite the whole thing they did not get to do this very many times due to adverse weather conditions They did also use skimmers but at that time they werent widely available In the aftermath the company responsible
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