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PHOTOS: 25 Years Later, A Heartbreaking Look Back At Exxon’s Alaska Oil Spill

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"PHOTOS: 25 Years Later, A Heartbreaking Look Back At Exxon’s Alaska Oil Spill"

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Around 200 people showed up at Fiesta Island in San Diego, Monday, July 17, 1989 to protest the use of Exxon products after the spill.

Around 200 people showed up at Fiesta Island in San Diego, Monday, July 17, 1989 to protest the use of Exxon products after the spill.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Brent Clingman

It was Good Friday on March 24, 1989, when 11 million gallons of crude spilled into Alaska’s Prince William Sound from an Exxon Valdez tanker. After colliding with a reef, the tanker seeped thick, toxic sludge into the water, where waves and currents globbed it over 1,300 miles of shoreline.

It has been 25 years since that tragedy, and though the oil has largely disappeared from immediate sight, effects from Exxon Valdez linger. The government is still fighting in court for more compensation from the company that scarred a coastal ecosystem. Beaches are still drenched in subsurface oil, and mussels still hold traces of it in their shells. An industry — fishing — has still not recovered. Lives lost, human and animal alike, have not been returned.

Here are some of the most powerful images from the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the events that followed.

The Oil

When the Exxon Valdez ship ran aground, it spilled more than 270,000 barrels of crude oil. Jurors decided that insurers should pay Exxon $250 million to compensate the oil company for money it spent to clean up after the accident. Exxon itself was ordered to pay $507.5 million in punitive damages including court costs, brought down from an initial $5 billion order.

Filer dated March 26, 1989, shows the Exxon Baton Rouge (smaller ship) attempting to off load crude oil from the Exxon Valdez.

Filer dated March 26, 1989, shows the Exxon Baton Rouge (smaller ship) attempting to off load crude oil from the Exxon Valdez.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Stapleton

A float plane waits to taxi from an oil-covered beach in Prince William Sound, an inlet off the Gulf of Alaska on April 1, 1989.

A float plane waits to taxi from an oil-covered beach in Prince William Sound, an inlet off the Gulf of Alaska on April 1, 1989.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jack Smith

An oil slick swirls over Prince William Sound, Alaska, April 2, 1989, about 50 miles from where the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground.

An oil slick swirls over Prince William Sound, Alaska, April 2, 1989, about 50 miles from where the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground.

The Animals

Images of oil-slicked birds and otters have become cliched when it comes to oil spills, but Exxon Valdez’s effect on marine life was unprecedented. An estimated 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters and 300 harbor seals were killed in the immediate aftermath, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was not until this year that the U.S. Geological Survey officially announced that sea otter populations had recovered from the spill.

In this April 4, 1989 file photo, a sea otter swims in Valdez harbor in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

In this April 4, 1989 file photo, a sea otter swims in Valdez harbor in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jack Smith, File

Sea Lions, some in the water and some on a rock, have a slight amount of oil on them as they frolic in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on Sunday, April 2, 1989, about 50 miles from the grounded tanker Exxon Valdez.

Sea Lions, some in the water and some on a rock, have a slight amount of oil on them as they frolic in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on Sunday, April 2, 1989, about 50 miles from the grounded tanker Exxon Valdez.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jack Smith

Sea Otters, killed by the oil spill in Prince William Sound, are placed in bags on Green Island before being flown to Valdez and put in an animal morgue.

Sea Otters, killed by the oil spill in Prince William Sound, are placed in bags on Green Island before being flown to Valdez and put in an animal morgue.

CREDIT: AP-Photo/Rob Stapleton

A local fisherman inspects a dead California gray whale on the northern shore of Latoucha Island, Alaska, Sunday afternoon on April 9, 1989.

A local fisherman inspects a dead California gray whale on the northern shore of Latoucha Island, Alaska, Sunday afternoon on April 9, 1989.

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Gaps III

The People

The Exxon Valdez spill effected everyone a little differently. Some cleaned up, some protested, and some had their lives changed forever.

Facing the loss of an anticipated $12 million herring harvest, Cordova District Fisherman United president Jerry McCune suffers through a meeting of local fisherman discussing their bleak future, April 10, 1989.

Facing the loss of an anticipated $12 million herring harvest, Cordova District Fisherman United president Jerry McCune suffers through a meeting of local fisherman discussing their bleak future, April 10, 1989.

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Gaps

Around 200 people showed up at Fiesta Island in San Diego, Monday, July 17, 1989 to protest the use of Exxon products after the spill.

Around 200 people showed up at Fiesta Island in San Diego, Monday, July 17, 1989 to protest the use of Exxon products after the spill.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Brent Clingman

Bill Scheer, of Valdez, Alaska, is covered in crude oil while working on a beach fowled by the spill of the tanker Exxon Valdez.

Bill Scheer, of Valdez, Alaska, is covered in crude oil while working on a beach fowled by the spill of the tanker Exxon Valdez.

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Gaps III

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