The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 24, 1989 when Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, California struck Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef. The tanker spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil over the next few days. The location of the spill, accessible only by helicopter, plane, or boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult. The oil slick eventually covered 1,300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean.
Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the Captain and provide a rested and sufficient crew for the ship. The third mate failed to properly maneuver the ship, possibly due to fatigue and excessive workload. The Exxon Shipping Company also failed to properly maintain the Raytheon Collision Avoidance System radar, which would have indicated to the third mate of an impending collision (a theory of Greg Palast, a writer and Journalist, which is not in the official accident report).
Captain Joseph Hazelwood, who was widely reported to have been drinking heavily, was not at the helm when the ship struck the reef. However, being the senior officer, he was in command even though he was asleep in his bunk.
The immediate effects included the deaths of as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, 22 orcas, and an unknown number of salmon and herring. Only 10% of the total oil was completely cleaned. In 2014, federal scientists estimated that between 16,000 and 21,000 US gallons (61 to 79 m3) of oil remains on beaches in Prince William Sound and up to 450 miles (725 km) away.