Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Gordon Scott, Part 2
Gordon Scott
Gordon Scott was interviewed on March 25, 2014 by Alicia Zorzetto at the offices of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council in Anchorage, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Gordon Scott talks about the challenges of dealing with Exxon management, the process of recovering spilled oil, and being featured in Fortune magazine.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-26-19_PT.2

Project: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Mar 24, 2014
Narrator(s): Gordon Scott
Interviewer(s): Alicia Zorzetto
Videographer: Alicia Zorzetto
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Resources Library & Information Services, Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council
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Sections

Being kept in Valdez Harbor by Exxon

Being a thorn in the side of Exxon

Trying to work with Exxon command

Booming oil

Thoughts on the command structure

Being featured in Fortune Magazine

Impact on fishing

Expressing frustration with Exxon management

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Transcript



GORDON SCOTT: I got to tell a few other stories from early on. There was a time when -- I’m gonna say it's about ten days into the spill our partner back -- broke -- our partner boat broke something in his shaft.

I don’t think it was the actual shaft, but he broke an intermediate bearing or something like that and basically it put him out of commission and when the powers that be were -- be out on the water at the time we towed him back to Valdez.

On the way in he basically did all the prep and when we got to Valdez it was fixed within hours, but now we’re in Valdez.

And as soon as it was fixed we went to leave they wouldn’t let us leave. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Who’s they?

GORDON SCOTT: Exxon. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Exxon.

GORDON SCOTT: By now I mean whoever is in the command position over -- the same building where I signed up. It was the operations center for fishing vessels, you know, and they wouldn’t let us leave for like three days -- two or three days.

I don’t remember how long, but it was extremely frustrating. I said we already have a contract. We’ve already been working. Look at our boats. They’re black.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Why would they do that?

GORDON SCOTT: You know.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: What was their reasoning that they gave you?

GORDON SCOTT: We couldn’t leave without a dispatch.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Oh.

GORDON SCOTT: That was the reasoning they gave us. It was incredible frustrating. I never did get quite that far. I called a lot of people on the phone.

I was gonna call the governor and somehow and we were just going to leave. I mean and I don’t remember, you know, we were on contract. We didn’t want to make them mad.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, we were -- there was big -- big numbers on those contract. We were supposedly making good money, but more importantly we knew what to do.

We've been doing it. Look at our boats, you know, my boat had so much oil on it and we had the skiff on deck which was totally black. The boom wasn’t there.

The boom we left out there some place, but we had the skiff on deck. It was totally black. The boat was totally black, the starboard side and the bow and a lot of the deck, you know.

We still had a bottle of Joy that’s all we had for cleaning up. I said we can’t use it all up.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: You know and they didn’t have their supply stuff built up at that time. We were going on what we had. Then we were out there so I was well supplied, but still I’m a fisherman what do you need?

You don’t need more than one bottle of Joy to do your dishes, you know.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You were planning.

GORDON SCOTT: We got a deck hose for washing stuff off the deck and so well the pictures of my boat while I was there made it in the front page of many national and international newspapers, you know.

Why did they want us to be here? And basically when you look at what was going on and I realized at this time they were hiring fishermen and paying them big money.

So that they weren’t in Valdez to talk to the press.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Hum.

GORDON SCOTT: Because there was tons of press in Valdez. There was thousands. I am sure there was hundreds, you know. Everywhere you walked there was press that was talking to you, you know, whatever they could get from anybody.

You’re out there fifty miles away floating on the water there's no press. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Hum.

GORDON SCOTT: And the fishermen are the ones who have been grumbling the most. So what they were doing there in Valdez even though they had -- didn’t necessarily have jobs for people.

After a while they were just hiring fishermen just a lot of fishermen were getting out.

And then I finally got out with their blessings I’ll say that, you know. I didn’t break their command and leave which is we kept thinking about doing and I think we actually tried one time and they called us back when we were driving out of the harbor and said, oh, darn it they saw us.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Just trying to get out of the harbor?

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah, just trying to get out of the harbor so, you know, we know where to go to work, we know how to do it and we’ve already established --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: Communication channels with people who are working and the Exxon Command out there had -- was used to us. Not that they -- I’m sure they didn’t like us, but that thing about them controlling us got worse and worse. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Hum.

GORDON SCOTT: It got so bad that finally and what Exxon did is they ended up sending a lot of people up here from Houston -- a lot of whatever manager type people.

You know, people wanted to be -- needed to be moving up -- people that looking like they have a future and they send them up here and they put them out there.

Okay, go deal with us. They had never dealt with anything like this. They didn’t never have planning to do anything like this.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And here they were out there and what would happen is each one of them, this one would be on this boat and commanding whatever's going on around this side of this island and this one's on this boat and he is commanding a group of boats and gear that’s around here and this one’s over here and he has that area.

And so we always end up -- we had to be reporting to somebody so we were reporting to one of these people. Well because we didn’t just stand by at the anchor like everybody else -- we’d stand by, you know, because we’d get up at, you know, if we had to spend the night, we’d get up at two in the morning and we’d head off.

Well check in was at eight o’clock. So we’d check in and, of course, we’d be towing on oil ten miles away. Oh, yep, Early Times Eureka we’re here at such and such, we’re towing boom with oil. Oh. And we became a thorn in their side for management.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: But -- and number two, a thorn in their side because we were collecting oil that they had to deal with. And so then we -- if they didn’t support us by getting a skimmer, we’d get one ourselves, but then they’d take him away from us after four or five times they said no.

And the one situation that irked me the most was this one boat that I was working with had the highest capacity so we could put like two, three, full booms of oil in him.

And typically every time he went to offload stuff 80 to 90 percent of what he had in his hold came from what we got and he was going around servicing all sorts of other boat pairs and this and that.

And so for us and him we were just working together. We said okay we’d just get on the radio cause he had to go all over the place.

Say okay how about around six pm somewhere in this area. Well how about a little later and okay and so we’d work on it and plan on it cause he’s driving all over the place.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. GORDON SCOTT: And we’re stuck at half a knot. We can’t go to him. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And then the next day we might be over here, you know. We’d let him know well ahead of time so he could schedule what he’s doing and get us and we kept doing that and finally called him one day and he says well I can’t get oil from you any more.

I end up running into him later in the day and going on board and talking to him and he said that what they had done is they had told they could not pick up oil from us because that means they got to go travel wherever they have to go to get rid of the oil which takes them away and they were only to service these four Navy skimmers.

And these Navy skimmers each hold and I know I don’t have my numbers right any more. They hold like ten barrels of oil -- ten or twelve or whatever the number is.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah. GORDON SCOTT: Tiny.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah, not a lot. GORDON SCOTT: And we’re catching 30,000 gallons of oil and dumping that on them -- 30 to 40 and here they’re serving these skimmers that at maximum could put a thousand gallons of oil in them and usually they only have 200.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah. GORDON SCOTT: But he was only to service that because --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Who said that? Was that Alyeska?

GORDON SCOTT: Exxon. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Exxon.

GORDON SCOTT: Alyeska -- I can’t tell you. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Okay.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, this is into the spill a ways.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah. GORDON SCOTT: And how the total command morphed and that I can’t really tell you.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yes. GORDON SCOTT: There was an Exxon Command out there on the water. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: Fairly early and I would say within two weeks for sure on a barge and then there were several of them after a while in different areas and then there was the Exxon Command in town. Our radios worked.

It's an aluminum boat and well-grounded radios. Our radio seemed to work better than most. I ended up being communications center out there for Exxon too.

So much so that they actually came and put another radio on us cause we’d often relay messages from Exxon Command in Valdez to Exxon Command out in Smith Bay or wherever.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Hum.

GORDON SCOTT: You know and back and forth. We’d just do this stuff. So they put us as more secure radio on us so we could do that.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: I was going to ask you when you -- when the other boat wasn’t allowed to work with you any more, what did you do with that oil that you already had? It’s like oh.

GORDON SCOTT: We just kept trying to find another one. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And, you know, and he suggested -- he was an Alaskan too and he was -- everybody out there wanted to do something good, you know and I’m sure Exxon did too in the big picture, but --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: But management was not?

GORDON SCOTT: Well they were constrained number one and this, you know, they got caught. They got caught with their pants down and it was time nobody had ever responded to an oil spill before and done stuff like what was done there. It was just common. You have an oil spill it goes away.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, forget about it, you know, you throw a little money at it here and there and so they got caught, you know, and then the environmental -- the press got a hold of it and drove it even further in the sky.

You know, there's a lot of stuff -- I mean, yes, they’d said they would clean up an oil spill before and there was no way they could.

It’s well known and even though they promised they’d do it, but they got caught because it was a big environmental -- Prince William Sound's a jewel, now it’s gone.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So did you ever experience any animosity because you had a contract? A lot -- there is -- there is a lot of research done between the animosity between fishermen as far as gaining contracts, not gaining contracts, wanting to work for them, not wanting to work for them.

GORDON SCOTT: I was never on shore to --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You were too busy

GORDON SCOTT: I was only around people with contracts. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: Except when I was in Valdez for those two days. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And there I was just trying to get out again, you know. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: Come on, I mean. We were ready to leave two hours after we got there.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You weren’t in Cordova at all or anything?

GORDON SCOTT: Nope. Never over in Cordova. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And then I was out on the water and you know. I mean the only boats around us were on contract basically. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: I mean occasionally some went by that weren’t. But no, I never got involved in that. I know there was -- was a lot of that. There were a lot of people who didn’t want to do it on principle, you know, and I don’t blame them, you know.

Actually a boat that we got dispatched with our partner boat quit after a week.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: He was totally frustrated and I don’t know if he was -- he was probably not as naïve as I was, you know. I didn’t know anything.

It was like anything we do I figure is better, but after a while I realized and then the other side of it is my realization, I mean were doing some good.

Granted in the big picture it was a small piece, but we kept getting -- they’d pull the rug out from under us.

They’d pull these skimmers out. We weren’t any good if we couldn’t get it out of the water.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And once we saw this pattern, you know, we kept saying -- we went over to the Exxon command boats often and talked with the boss which he was always somebody from Houston.

And had many an animated talk with him telling him how things had to happen and, you know, it was like talking to a wall.

I mean they would talk back to us, but it was like oh by the grace of God, you know, this is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to the state of Alaska. What?

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Really?

GORDON SCOTT: Oh, yeah. That’s pretty much a direct quote from one of these guys. We heard from I mean a hundred times.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: He thought that you were lucky to have a contract?

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Essentially. GORDON SCOTT: Yeah.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: And you would have much rather obviously be fishing? GORDON SCOTT: Yeah. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And you know, of course, all these dead otters and dead ducks. I’d seen lots of them, you know. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And lots of them. I turned in some to wildlife boats I, you know, it’s like it was pretty heartening -- disheartening thing to deal with and so I mean we would go and tell these guys you need to get more of this -- you need to get more -- you need too -- I mean you need to help support us.

This stuff about you saying this skimmer won’t service any more that’s got to end. We collect the oil.

They’re the ones who can get it out of the water.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: I said don’t pull them away from us. Get us another one. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: We can keep two of them busy. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And -- oh, no, but you know those are da, da, those plans, you know, everything is all plotted and planned and no do it. You know they were all dead ends. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: We never stopped trying all the way, you know as, I mean in those first few months there was a lot of oil out there collectible.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah. It must have been exhausting too to keep just the -- it sounds like so much of your -- I mean it’s hard to collect oil in the first place then once you do it you have to fight another battle just trying to --

GORDON SCOTT: Oh, yeah, just to and well you got to start at the moment you start collecting. You know because I’m locked in. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: I’m at half a knot. You can draw a circle. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: In 24 hours I’ll be somewhere within this small circle. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And it’s only 12 miles away. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: So I got to start plotting and planning and, you know, we have the skiffs go out while we can stay on this streak for probably about 8, 10 hours and then there’s none.

So I got in 10 hours I got to try to plan for somebody to be here. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: Not over there cause it is going to take -- it would take me another 10 hours to get over there. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, whereas he can get there in one hour and take care of us and then we can move -- then we can go to here.

We can go at six knots and pick our starting point. And like I say we went 24 hours a day when we could which was a lot of the time.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Wow.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, we’d -- I mean our longest tow I think was like four days because we couldn’t get a skimmer.

We stopped collecting oil after like 12 hours and we towed that thing for four days.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: oh, God.

GORDON SCOTT: Before we finally got somebody to pull it off and we were doing everything we could and -- and we had pretty good channels after a little while.

But it still doesn’t mean -- you know and there was another incident which really sickened me about everything and this was when it started it was a night things were later on and it was like we weren’t on an active streak of oil at night -- we wouldn’t go at night unless we saw one.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And they’re easier to find during the daytime than night. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: I mean you can keep following them during the night, but if it dries out then you can go find another one and so we actually were anchored up and dinner time we checked out, you know with them.

We’re so and so. We were about 100 yards from the Exxon barge, you know, in one of the bays and we here that -- just this general call from this fisherman who's driving.

I think he was working on the spill, but fishing boat who was driving some place and he noted a bunch of oil and this was 20 miles away from us. It was an area nobody'd been working in.

So we heard about it and he just made a general call saying that there was a lot of oil here, you know, and we think he called Exxon and told them about it.

They said okay we’ll check it out in the morning. Well this is six pm you know in May or late April or whatever and we’ll check it out in the morning.

No, you don’t check it out in the morning. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: It will be gone. There is currents out there. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And so then after a little while he called up and says well if anybody's -- wants to know there is a whole bunch of oil over here and like I said there was nobody working over there.

I knew where everybody was working I mean we were -- it was widespread. Nobody was working over there and so after a little while we actually called him back on the radio and got him to define it a little bit because we were into that.

We knew what -- we knew what we could do and it sounded like there was a lot of oil over there and okay so finally after a little while we call up Exxon on the radio. I think we actually pulled anchor and kind of called them and said we’re gonna go check that out.

Oh, no, don’t check that out, you know, we’ll go check that out first thing in the morning. We’ll get -- have helicopters over there and stuff first thing in the morning and we’ll make a plan.

You know, don’t check, you know, you got to stay right here and we dropped the anchor. Well I think about an hour later when it got dark, you know, talked with my partner boat.

We pulled anchor and off we went. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: Okay, they aren’t going to see us. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: So off we went and got there at midnight and scouted it with the skiffs, and you know, the two boats and the skiff. You got four places you can scout. Three of them can go pretty fast.

The one towing the boom can go like four knots, you know. Everybody else in the skiffs can go 15 or 20. So we scouted it out and we had lights -- floating lights we could throw in and stuff to follow streaks at night. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: We figured just from fishing gear and, you know, that’s how we use the skiffs a lot at night, you know, we’d just go put three or four lights out in the next half a mile and then pick them up and we’ll keep moving them one edge of it.

It makes it easy to follow and then you can see the oil right close to you and follow the edge.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Smart.

GORDON SCOTT: So anyway we -- at midnight we hooked up and started towing the oil. Well, at five in the morning we determined we had 140,000 gallons in that boom and this is a boom where, like I said, we were mainly catching 30 to 40 and sometimes less because it depends on what was around. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Oh.

GORDON SCOTT: But 30 or 40 was like the biggest we got, but we took -- did our numbers and it’s like there is 140,000 gallons in this boom. We can’t fit one more gallon in it at five in the morning and so we called -- called them at five in the morning and said well you know that report about that oil over here we’re over here by (inaudible) we’ve got 140,000 gallons of boom corralled in our boom and there lots more, you know.

We can’t catch any more. You need to get some people. I figured well we’ll preempt -- we’ll get their planning going.

Well helicopters showed up pretty darn quick. So you know what they did about that.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: What?

GORDON SCOTT: They sent a couple of boats with a Navy skimmer and they had us dump that 140,000 gallons of oil for that Navy skimmer to pick up and that Navy skimmer when plugged can only hold like my numbers I know aren’t right -- 1,300 gallons something.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Geez.

GORDON SCOTT: And it’s like oh, my God. You know, there was another boat pair with a boom but it had a short skirt, you know, and whatever they did it just washed underneath it.

So we dumped it. We ended up going catching it again.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Geez.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, they got their thousand gallons out of it and we ended up going catching it again. And actually this is the boom full that took four days to find a skimmer.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: That’s when you were waiting --

GORDON SCOTT: And we could have filled it up five times.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah. Well you’re giving us really good sense of how important it is to have the fishermen -- have local fishermen involved in this kind of --

GORDON SCOTT: Right. In all levels of it too. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: You know I mean the command level. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: My biggest fear and I’m very much quite knowledgeable about the setup now since everything is driven by lawyers in this world of oil spill, you know, this, you know, it’s a planning standard that the contingency plans on are not -- it’s not a real standard of what you can do it’s what you can put down on paper that you can do.

And with the command and control over it, I -- same spill right now would be a lot better but a lot of the same problems are going to happen. Because, you know, it’s -- it’s just like then I mean somebody was in charge.

There was a command structure, but to really do any work in it you had to go beyond that. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And the command structure cannot really do it all. Now fishermen at least on the lower levels of the command structure out on the water it will probably be a lot better, but then again that’s the commands from up top are gonna filter down there and I really see a lot of the same problems where you can be allowed to do certain things.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So you don’t -- you don’t think the incident command system is probably appropriate for an oil spill then?

GORDON SCOTT: Well it is if you get the right people and they listen.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, an incident command system is designed really from the bottom up not from the top down. It's designed to support the people in the field. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: It's not designed to order the people in the field, but the way it’s set up and the way the industry want to do it is working from the top down.

You know and there's monetary reasons I’m sure and there is a lot of reasons and obviously it is going to be mix of everything, but, you know, the bottom line is that person on the bottom rung who has a boom full of oil or knows he's gonna have a boom full of oil in six hours at such and such a point that command structure is designed so that ICS’s design so that will happen.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: But that won’t happen?

GORDON SCOTT: That will happen. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Oh, that will happen.

GORDON SCOTT: That’s the way it's supposed to be designed. It's designed to support the people in the field. But, you know --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You think in the case of an oil spill it might not work out that way?

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah, because the command is really gonna come from the top. Well, okay, no, we can’t do that because of this. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: You know. ALICIA ZORZETTO: And still --

GORDON SCOTT: Tell him he's gonna have to wait.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Did you experience that during drills? Is that why you still get that sense, you know? I know you have gone to a lot of drills so you’ve got 25 years now of experience practicing.

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: And that’s what -- is that what you saw during the drills?

GORDON SCOTT: I -- I've seen that it will happen. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, the drills are such a false thing. I mean they’re great. Don’t get me wrong. They have to happen, but they have to go the way they are.

But it’s a resource, you know, driven thing and who controls the resources? ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: The top, you know. It will be much better. Anything will be much better. You can’t get much worse. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And, you know, having the fishermen involved in the structure will help a lot.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: They also have a voice through RCAC. GORDON SCOTT: Yes. ALICIA ZORZETTO: As well.

GORDON SCOTT: And the RCAC can bark also, you know, and there was no -- there was no -- no fail to bark except the press. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And Exxon -- the press. That’s a whole 'nother story. Somewhere I’m going to say early May cause I'd spent those few days in Valdez there like 10 days to two weeks into the spill so somewhere around that would make it around, what, April 1st or the 5th or so.

And I got a friend at Valdez who I talk with a lot about what was there and he ended up having a friend who had a boat who chartered Fortune Magazine when they showed up to go out in the Sound.

And my buddy told them go find Gordon in the Early Times he knows what’s going on. He has been out there. He has been working and I'd met this guy before.

I didn’t really know him, but he was a friend of my buddy and so I didn’t know anything about this, but anyway they go out there and finally I get a call on the radio saying the Early Times where are you and we’re over here.

Okay, we want to find you some place, but we’re over here and basically we had over a couple days, a few radio communications cause my radios got out real well so.

And finally he said okay we’re going to find you and I said we’ll be here tomorrow too. So he stopped by me on the way back to Valdez after spending two days out there.

He's got two reporters and a photographer from Fortune Magazine.

Okay, so they pull up beside and they get on board and start talking and the first thing that comes out of their mouth -- these Fortune Magazine people -- now they have spent like two and a half days driving around Prince William Sound in their chartered boat at their command.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And they said you are the first boat we’ve seen working and I said -- what I probably said -- I don’t really know -- I probably said -- I could have told you that cause I knew what was going on. There was nobody working.

You know, and here we were towing with our partner -- had a bunch of oil in the back at half a knot, life at half a knot. So anyway we talked for quite a while. They were jotting down notes.

Photographer's taking pictures -- explaining about how this and that works and, you know, gave them a tour -- I said jump in the skiff. I said I’ll go show you what the oil looks like in the back of the boom because, you know, that’s a couple hundred feet back there we were looking at it back there.

So we get on the skiff it is better on water level and go right back there to the back of the boom. And there's I don’t know how many gallons, you know, it wasn’t a real monster boom full, but it was 20,000 gallons or so in there.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: That’s a lot.

GORDON SCOTT: And it’s, you know, the skirt's -- it had an 18 inch skirt I think. You know, the oil in the back is basically a foot deep or more. And it’s thick and so I take the oar and dip down in there and watch it clunk, clunk, clunk as big chunks go off of there and, of course, they’re snapping pictures and talking about it and I’m showing this and I’m dirty, you know.

And so I showed them that and we chat, you know. They probably spent an hour and a half with us and off they go back to Valdez. And I thought oh that’s cool, you know, and Fortune Magazine came out and I don’t remember somehow May 18th issue whatever, but anyway you might have one here. I don’t know.

It’s in the libraries. I got a copy and I said okay well that will be interesting to see what they write, you know. And there was three different articles -- a total of maybe 12 pages I don’t know and a total of and my numbers -- I haven’t looked at it for many years, but there was probably about 12 pictures throughout these three articles.

Again, the first thing I do I start reading the articles and go reading along and basically the articles are telling me about what a good job Exxon is doing to clean up the oil spill and what a great thing it has done for the state of Alaska, you know.

That’s basically what they said. And what a great corporate citizen they are, you know. You know I kind of read through it and, you know, it's Fortune Magazine for you who’s that written for?

And so I start re-reading it and I go this makes me sick they’re saying this, you know, cause I was just reading through it first than I start -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: The individual things they say. What? Where did they get this from? You know, well reporters that the same experience I’ve had with reporters in the past and then I start looking at the pictures and I had noticed the pictures and it was like -- like I say, my numbers aren’t memorized.

I don’t know there was like 12 pictures. And like nine of them are taken during that hour and a half when they were with me.

You know, there's a dirty mustang suit hanging up on the thing. There's the oar dripping oil. There is the vest, you know, stuff on our boat or our operation.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: They don’t mention any -- any of the boats --

GORDON SCOTT: You gotta remember they said we were the first boat we saw working. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: They were the boat we were looking for -- they were looking for -- we were because they got to show what a good job Exxon was doing working. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: By what Gordon Scott and the Early Times and Ken Hurst on the Eureka were doing. We were representative.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So you didn’t -- and you didn’t --

GORDON SCOTT: The pictures -- the pictures that weren’t taken during that hour and a half were all on the North Slope.

Caribou walking under the pipeline and the derrick up there with the sunset.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Now were you in that with your face in that magazine?

GORDON SCOTT: I don’t think it was or it might have been a distant -- I don’t really remember.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Or your boat -- with your boat?

GORDON SCOTT: The boat yeah, it’s -- yeah, I mean they’re all taken. Some of them you wouldn’t recognize unless you knew, but.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Did you get any animosity from anyone by being in there or no?

GORDON SCOTT: No, not that I ever heard of.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: It must have been frustrating for you --

GORDON SCOTT: Oh, it’s like oh my God I mean I want to do a good job for the press. I wanted to do a good job for Alaska.

I wanted to do a good job for Exxon. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, they’re paying me.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: But they used that --

GORDON SCOTT: Not that I liked what they did, but dealing with the cards we got --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah. You don’t want to be used by them.

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah, well, here I'm used, you know, the business community down south that’s who reads this. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: They say what a good job they are doing and they show it by their pictures. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And it’s like --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: That’s frustrating.

GORDON SCOTT: And I did -- I don’t know if you would have it here, probably not, but --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: I'll look. I’m gonna look for it.

GORDON SCOTT: It was in May ’89, Fortune Magazine and I don’t, like I said, I haven’t probably looked at it 20 years or more, but it was like oh, no.

I almost wish they didn’t find me.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: I mean I’m not seeking publicity. I’m not really mentioned in it. I don’t need that, but, you know.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Well no and then if that’s not the truth of what’s really, you know, I mean obviously you were working hard, but if for the most part, you know, the cleanups a failure they’re --

GORDON SCOTT: And why didn’t they say what they told me when they first came on board. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: They said wow, you’re the first person we’ve seen working and they'd been three days at 30 knots or whatever. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: They’ve covered everywhere.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Terrible, terrible.

GORDON SCOTT: And, you know, then I also have friends down in the Lower 48 and one of them who is -- runs a fixed base operation for aircraft. At an airport and I talked with him.

He sold Exxon gas -- av gas -- lots of it and, you know, he said that they gave him -- they passed out to their people down there like their wholesalers like him and probably their driving public at their gas stations.

This little -- they had this little one page thing about what a good job they were doing up here, you know. Of course, the ad wasn’t related to that article, but it was just corporate America down there reads Fortune, you know, the people who make the decisions in the world.

And then the people who buy the gas are just going well Exxon says they’re doing a good job you know.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: Why should I go buy the other guy’s gas. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: (Inaudible) I know there was some backlash on that, but -- in the states. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: But stuff like that was pretty hard to take. I mean I’m sitting there reading it. I’m still working out there. I’m still the only one working out there. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: I say that. It’s not entirely true, but I mean that’s what Fortune said when they came up to me, but --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: There were a lot more people that weren’t working than there were people -- GORDON SCOTT: Yeah.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Like you who were working? GORDON SCOTT: Yeah. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And I mean but working, you know. There was a lot of people getting paid. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And it’s not that they weren’t doing nothing, but actually cleaning up the oil spill, you know, you couldn’t do that much unless you had a boom.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Well and you sound like you were a little rebellious too like you -- GORDON SCOTT: I was.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: To work you had to -- GORDON SCOTT: I had to -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Go against the rules.

GORDON SCOTT: And -- and with my partner Kent -- it was like every day it’s like what do we do today. It’s like we didn’t want to get fired. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: We were making good money. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: You know. ALICIA ZORZETTO: But you --

GORDON SCOTT: I mean so were these other people. I don’t care, but we want to do something. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: You know. I want them to too and we’d help -- we’d run around in our skiff whenever the people were towing boom -- we’d run around and help them, you know.

We’d often see they are losing some oil and we figured out a lot of stuff on our own. We fixed our own boom.

We went and fixed other people’s. And said hey, you got to slow down, you know. The reason you’re not catching it is cause you’re going too fast. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, cause that boom's way back there. Did you look at it? Oh, well, it has a little oil in it, you know. You know, with the skiffs you can get back there.

We could find that cutting edge speed and we went and helped a lot of people, but, yeah, it was real frustrating.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: I bet.

GORDON SCOTT: And it never really ended -- the frustration. I mean those -- towards the latter part of the summer there was not so much free oil out there, you know. We ended up actually towing a Navy skimmer for the last two months.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Can I ask you by the end of the summer moving on to the next summer was your fishing jeopardized from the spill, you know?

GORDON SCOTT: Okay, we can go back to the shrimp. My pots were in the water.

We talked about that a little while ago and it’s like okay my pots are in the water -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: After a while I heard that the fishery closed a week ago or two weeks ago and my pots are still in the water. Most of them are in the areas that the oil spill didn’t really get to in a big way.

But that one pot of oil that we went too that was in the area we were fishing. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: So the oil did get over there and, you know, whenever I had a chance I drove by a buoy and -- and if I had a chance if we weren’t towing any oil, I would pull the string up.

And we’d just go and stash it on the beach, but it ended up -- I end up hiring a boat like two months later and said, okay, here’s all the coordinates, can you go pull all this gear and go throw it on such and such a beach.

I’ll get it later. So it all ended up up on the beach. I still have the buoys.

I should have brought one in. They’re black. Most of them are black. They’re still black. I still have them.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Wow.

GORDON SCOTT: There were some that never -- no oil went by. Of course, that’s on the surface that’s where the buoy lives.

The pots are on the bottom so what goes on down there that’s a whole 'nother picture which I can’t totally --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: I think Joe Banta's talked a fair bit as to to what goes on --

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Under water.

GORDON SCOTT: Right. But, so the shrimp was closed. Well I did the shrimping and I long-lined for halibut and, you know, halibut back then was derby days so obviously the May fishery I didn’t participate in -- the September one.

But there was an October cleanup fishery and when they-- when we ended up getting done in late September they cleaned the boat and all that and the DHC writing off the boats clean and all that for fishing and I kept wondering, you know, about long-lining, you know.

I figured I could follow in the halibut thing and there was going to be a halibut opener in October so I went out and I asked -- found out the Sound was -- you could fish in the Sound so and it was a small -- it was a cleanup quota so it wasn’t really a huge thing.

So I figured I’d fish in the Sound and I did and caught fish and I was a little nervous about it and bringing them in, but --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: (Inaudible).

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah and every year, you know, that’s all I -- the shrimp never opened. It opened the next year and after three weeks they slammed it shut because the catch was dismal and then it was closed for 20 years until this modern era of shrimping. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Hum.

GORDON SCOTT: So the shrimp basically disappeared. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Wow.

GORDON SCOTT: For whatever reasons and the halibut I long-lined every year -- most of them in the Sound so, you know, of course, halibut are real mobile so kind of the thought was a lot of them wouldn’t be so affected.

But the shrimp, you know, they live -- you catch them where they live their whole life basically.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And so -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Now they -- they’re not -- they’re not as deep as a halibut would be -- are they? GORDON SCOTT: Hum --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: About the same, okay?

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah. The shrimp that I catch are pretty deep, yeah. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Okay.

GORDON SCOTT: And then a lot of the halibut you catch in Prince William Sound are real deep because there isn’t really a lot of shallow water enough to long-line in.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah, no, I knew halibut was in deep water, but I didn’t -- GORDON SCOTT: Yeah.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: That shrimp were as well. GORDON SCOTT: Yeah.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Okay. Well, Gordon, I think we have a really good interview. Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap it up?

GORDON SCOTT: Well --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Any final thoughts or --

GORDON SCOTT: I don't know, you know, those were, you know, like one of the things -- the biggest thing was how frustrated we were out there.

By the system that we had and it really never ended. You kind of got used to it. We’d work little cracks and then all of a sudden we’d be held -- they’d hold us under our thumb over here where there isn’t any oil.

I mean that was another thing. One of those little captains with an area that I kind of talked about we got assigned to him and he was in an area where there was no oil and he had -- I don’t know 15 boats and we were part of his fleet.

He --we tried to sneak out of there so many times. He was onto us. He kept us under his thumb. You can’t leave.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: This was the Coast Guard? GORDON SCOTT: Exxon. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Exxon.

GORDON SCOTT: One of those Exxon captains. A young guy sent up to be put in charge of something, you know. And he didn’t want to get rid of us in case any oil came down there because he knew we’d get it.

But meanwhile there are these other captains out in these other areas that they’re -- they’re talking about they got oil, but nobody is really doing much about it. And we’d sneak away.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And he’d -- he’d call us up -- say, hey, I don’t see you guys aren’t in anchor. Where are you? Or we’re a couple miles up here.

We wanted to see what the oil was up here. No, you can’t go up there. No, no, they’ve got that covered over. Caught again.

And if we could get out there and get on the oil then they couldn’t really say anything to us.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: That was always our goal and that’s why, you know, and there was a period of time when the Exxon helicopter would come out every morning, you know. It was the typical morning as you’d check in at six and then they’d tell you to stand by and then over the next six or eight hours they order certain people to go do this or that.

Well by six in the morning we were standing, you know, so they’d send the helicopter out at five. This is in mid-summer when things -- lots of light.

First thing the helicopter would do is they’d call us on the radio and say where are you guys and then they would know where the best oil was.

They wouldn’t necessarily fly over us.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: They knew. GORDON SCOTT: They’d just call us. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: Where you at? Oh, we’re 10 miles east of such and such, you know, we’re picking up oil. It is pretty thick out here, you know, and it’s relative to the time.

And then sometimes they’d fly over us and usually they’d just say okay we don’t need to go there.

They already know. We’ve spanned out in four different directions.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

GORDON SCOTT: And we said this is the worst oil.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: They weren’t going to get it?

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah. We’re gonna get it and by the time we check in we’re already there. They can’t tell us to let go of the boom. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: That was our main tactic. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Smart. Smart.

GORDON SCOTT: And, you know, my interesting little story though my wife or wife to be came out and visited several times during the spill -- spend a few days with us and, of course, she brought -- it was interesting her perspective and this was something she wrote to her parents.

I got to see it later. She said really it's amazing how excited they are when they’ve got some oil to collect, you know, cause basically we’re just zapping oil, okay.

What can we do to get it? How can we get it all, you know? Doddle-- doddle, you know, and dealing with shallow water or whatever and -- but when there wasn’t any oil, man, they were just chafing at the bit, you know.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: It was just like fishing. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: You know. It’s like when you’re catching them, you’re with it. You get with it and when you’re not catching them, it’s like, huh.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right, it’s true.

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah, but it’s just an interesting little side story. We’re all human.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah, well Tom Copeland has a similar story in a sense he says -- GORDON SCOTT: Well --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You know, there’s no one else that’s trained on the planet to go out into the coastal environment and pick up organic material and bring it back into town. He said that --

GORDON SCOTT: Right. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Catching oil is easier than herring because herring hides from you and --

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Oil's right there. It’s on the surface and --

GORDON SCOTT: Tom Copeland and I got to know real well, but I wish I --