Oil spill devastates Alaska... again

Feature story - 14 December, 2004
Fifteen years after the Exxon Valdez devastated the Alaskan coast, another oil spill is making headlines. Greenpeace is on the scene.

Greenpeace activist Melanie Duchin at the site of the spill. The best prevention against future oil spills is a future without oil.

A Malaysian freighter lost power to its main engine on December 7, 2004 and ran aground on the west-side of Unalaska Island in the Aleutian Island chain. The ship was carrying 483,000 US gallons (1.8 million litres) of heavy bulk fuel and another 21,000 of diesel fuel.

Adding to the tragedy, six crew members from the ship were lost during a rescue attempt when the helicopter trying to retrieve them crashed.

The spilled oil threatens a nearby wildlife refuge -- home to such species as sea otters, harbour seals, halibut and tanner crabs. Though this oil spill is small compared to Exxon Valdez, the type of oil is difficult to break up and the accident's proximity to a wildlife refuge makes it particularly dangerous.

Greenpeace is on the scene, meeting with residents and the local fishing community and offering wildlife and oil spill experience when needed. The job of documenting the spill has been made extremely hard by the remoteness of this site, out of range of most satellite communications.

We believe the focus of this disaster should not solely be on oil spill response, but more importantly on preventing such accidents before they happen.

Alaska's arctic ecosystem is doubly threatened by oil spills and global warming. The solution is the same: a future free of fossil fuels, built on safe, renewable energy sources. The Earth can no longer afford our addiction to oil.

See exclusive images

View a slideshow of the disaster.