Alaska native and progressive activist Shannyn Moore wrote a poignant essay to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill:
Looking back through the glass of water, I see myself through time in the way I imagine my mother in the days before President Kennedy’s assassination. Pure. Pulling in life and innocent to the blow to come.
The herring fishery in Sitka is like a derby-superbowl-landing on the moon for fishermen. It’s fast and frantic and money is made fast and lost quicker. Airplanes accompany the fleet when they flood past the safe harbor walls to spot the thick harvest. The race so fierce planes crash into each other while looking for fish.
That year we waited more than a week to fish. Fish and Game kept testing the herring to see if they were ripe yet. “Standby to standby” became the joke. There’s something about waiting for fish to get horny enough to spawn (and you have to catch them before they do that) which makes for a loaded atmosphere.
But did we catch them. Hundreds of thousands of tons. Prices high and spirits higher.
A redheaded fisherman named Rex boarded our boat in the Sitka harbor after midnight. He was undone. We thought he was drunk. When we realized he wasn’t — we wished we all were.
The Exxon Valdez had “fetched up” and was spilling oil in our next herring fishing grounds.
The grassy knoll.
At the time I didn’t know that the Raycus Radar hadn’t been repaired and that was part of the off coarse problem. I also didn’t know that the only emergency clean up crew had been laid off and the barge with all the clean up equipment was iced into dry dock in Valdez and had been sitting there for almost two years. None of us did.
We all crowded in the wheelhouse and listened to the marine radio.
They have to burn it now. They need to ignite it with a bomb – there are fighters sitting at Elmendorf. What is the hold up? Burn it already!
Then the weather forecast.
A North Eastern storm was blowing in.
“Jesus, it’s going to blow it all the way to Kodiak…that’s more than three hundred miles.”
A not so perfect storm.