“I refer to Prince William Sound as one of the two most beautiful places on earth. I leave it to each of you individually to decide what the other one is. We all have a Shangri-La in our hearts and minds. Think of yours when you contemplate what has happened to ours.” — Don Moore, city manager of Cordova, Alaska.
As the oil continues to flow in the Gulf of Mexico, we’ve been consulting some lessons of history preserved on the Land Library’s shelves. On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground on Alaska’s Bligh Reef, spilling over 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, home to salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds — not to mention, a thriving fishing industry.
Riki Ott, a former commercial fisherwoman from Cordova, Alaska, provides a riveting account of the spill, the clean-up, and its lingering aftermath in her 2008 book Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Ott traces the twenty-year struggle of Cordova residents as they deal with the nation’s largest oil spill, and one of the longest-running court cases in U.S. history.
None of this is fun, but to forget these stories won’t serve the Gulf Coast well in the months (and years) ahead. For additional historical grounding on the Gulf of Mexico spill, here’s a few more volumes from the Land Library’s shelves:
The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster by Sharon Bushnell & Stan Jones, Oil Spill! by Melvin Berger & Paul Mirocha (from our Waterton Canyon Kids Library).
Fishcamp: Life on an Alaskan Shore by Nancy Lord, The Fate of Nature: Rediscovering Our Ability to Rescue the Earth by Charles Wohlforth (drawing on lessons from Alaskan coastal life and the 1989 Prince William Sound oil spill).
For more on the Gulf Coast’s remarkable natural history, please scan our recent post, The Gulf Coast: Downstream and Part of Our World