March 24 was 30th Anniversary of Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
We share one of many oral histories from that time
Herring fishing in Togiak was a go, but salmon fishing around Kodiak was closed
Thirty years ago, March 24, 1989 the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, spilling an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.
We share an oral history by the University of Alaska’s Project Juke Box.
It was spring break in Kodiak. And retired Kodiak school teacher Jane Eisemann was just beginning her career. Like many, she worked through the school year and went fishing in the summer.
The year of the oil spill she was able to go herring fishing, but not for salmon.
Eisemann describes being glued to the radio listening to how quickly the oil was advancing toward Kodiak.
”Everybody was tuned to the radio and it was like listening to troops, you know, as we — as we listened to the progress that the spill was making towards Kodiak.
It was really frightening. I mean it was, you know, reports on the half hour how far the oil had moved and trying to speculate whether it was going to make it to Kodiak and listening to our, you know, mayor and the different people trying to come up with a plan.
What are we going to do if it does get here? And it was — it was fascinating and scary at the same time. It was kind of like the enemy was approaching and we were getting, you know, updates on how close the enemy was.
SHARON BUSHELL: Yes.
JANE EISEMANN: And what we’re going to do and it just kind of got worse from there.”
After she finished fishing herring in Togiak, Eisemann could see for herself the damage to local beaches. While not nearly the devastation of that in Prince William Sound, but hearbreaking none-the-less.
In Prince William Sound the oil which covered every rock, plant and creature on the shorelines. The Kodiak area saw more tar balls and mouse, or frothy pudding like masses of churned oil.
“And when I came back — got back to Kodiak, I had some friends that were working on the spill and their stories were just devastating about what they had seen and, you know, a lot of people here got contracts to go pick up oiled animals, rescue, but mostly dead animals off the beach and just — just heartbreaking photographs which everybody has seen.
SHARON BUSHELL: Uh-huh.
JANE EISEMANN: You know the images are still even today so — so long after the fact are just — they’re devastating. I show this film in my classroom. I teach Maritime Science and Technology and — and we’d look at the oil industry and we — and we — and I try to present it in such a way that it’s not opinionated, but it is hard at times. But there are some images —
JANE EISEMANN: So anyway there is — there is some images in some of the footage that I show that still just brings tears to my eyes. You know, I’m a softy anyway, but it is just — it’s very fresh still.
SHARON BUSHELL: Yes. JANE EISEMANN: After all these years. SHARON BUSHELL: Right.
JANE EISEMANN: Memories are incredibly fresh and as we deal with the possible end of it all it — well I mean the — the financial end of it all, you know, what is Exxon going to do. I just want it to be over — I, you know, just — just let it be — let that be over whatever way — whatever way it turns out, but it will never be over.
I mean, there is just going to be some lingering things with emotional lingerings and environment lingerings.”
That is Jane Eisemann recalling the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill which occurred 30 years ago this week. She was interviewed on September 18, 2007 by Sharon Bushell as part of the UAF Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Project Jukebox.
Click on the links below for more information and resources dealing with the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.
Details about the accident (Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s website)