A couple weeks ago I posted a very brief note about a photo shoot I had just completed in Prince William Sound, Alaska documenting the crude oil that is still present on the beaches there. This was done on assignment for the World Wildlife Fund who is working to bring attention to the sad fact that 20 years after the oil was spilled, 19 years after the cleanup was ‘completed’, this toxic substance is still there, still contaminating this particularly beautiful environment.
Twenty years is a long time.
I got to thinking about this.
The place where we photographed and collected some of this oil was several feet below the high tide mark. Every twelve hours the ocean rises up to high tide and washes that beach, sometimes vigorously with wave and currents. I did a quick calculation – It’s been 20 years, 7,300 days, 14,600 high tides and the oil is still there just a few inches below the surface layer of rocks. This is truly amazing. It’s hard to comprehend the effects this oil must still be having on the environment in Prince William Sound as it slowly and constantly leeches out of the gravel into the water.
This sobering thought has changed the way I look at the oil industry that we collectively support. As long as we are buying oil in its myriad of products the tankers will keep transporting it. Shipping is safer now than it was in 1989, but by no means is it without risk. As we watch gas prices climb I hope that it will act as a reminder to us of the real cost of oil. What is paid at the pump is a drop in the ocean of the real costs associated with this industry, and we all bear it in many ways. Some sly ones such as health issues from pollution, others are obvious such as the devastation of the environment in such a precious place as Prince William Sound.
It’s clear that the oil industry is not good for us. What can one person do? I think we each need to answer this for ourselves. My approach is two fold: First I’m improving my awareness of consumption. What do I do that consumes oil or its byproducts? How do I minimize this consumption? Secondly, I am working on alternative energy sources to replace my oil consumption.
Below is an embedded slideshow of the 138 images from this trip that I’ve uploaded to the online photo archive. Mostly what you’ll see is a lot of beautiful scenery, mountains, glacier ice, whales, sea lions, sunsets and moon rises, then some documentation of the oily rock collection.
Special thanks to David Janka with the charter vessel ‘Auklet’ who made this trip not only possible, but also a very comfortable and productive three days in Prince William Sound. If you are looking for a boat to charter in Prince William Sound I can strongly recommend the Auklet with David as captain.