The role a melting iceberg played in Exxon’s biggest disaster
By DINO GRANDONI, ASAF SHALEV, MICHAEL PHILLIS, SUSANNE RUST – APRIL 6, 2017
In the wee hours of March 24, 1989, the channel connecting the Alaskan port of Valdez with Prince William Sound was riddled with icebergs shed from the deteriorating Columbia Glacier, a massive river of ice that had begun breaking apart only a few years earlier.
With an inexperienced third mate guiding the massive, oil-laden tanker, the Exxon Valdez swerved out of its designated shipping lane to avoid the ice. It was a standard maneuver carried out hundreds of times before.
But this time, on this night, before the third mate could correct course, the tanker careened into the rocky outcropping of Bligh Reef where it ultimately released roughly 11 million gallons of crude oil into the waters of Prince William Sound.