Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Radio Recordings

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Radio Recordings is a series of broadcasts from public radio stations around Alaska made during the period of the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. The full collection is housed at the Oral History Collection, Alaska and Polar Regions Collections and Archives, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks. The original recordings were donated by: Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN) and KSKA public radio station in Anchorage, Alaska; KTOO, public radio station in Juneau, Alaska; KCHU, public radio station in Valdez, Alaska; and National Public Radio (NPR). The series covers a variety of subjects ranging from Captain Joseph Hazelwood's original reporting of the tanker having run aground, to press briefings, to news stories, to interviews with community members.

Below are excerpts (including their Oral History catalog number) from some of the recordings highlighting the early days of the spill and the anger and frustration experienced by local people. Click on the mp3 or ogg format to listen to the recording. The audio player will open in a new browser window. The longer recordings are outlined by timecode so you can use the audio player's scroll bar to move ahead in the recording to a specific section of interest.

Oral History 95-65-01 (excerpt)

Captain Joseph Hazelwood’s initial radio transmission from the Exxon Valdez tanker to the Alyeska oil terminal in Valdez, Alaska informing them that the tanker had run aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound and she was leaking oil. Original recording courtesy of KTOO. Recording is 4:00 minutes in length.  95-65-01 Hazelwood.mp3   95-65-01 Hazelwood.ogg

Oral History 95-65-01 (excerpt)

Initial radio news report of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill on March 24, 1989. Original recording courtesy of KTOO and NPR. Recording is 0:55 seconds in length.  95-65-01 1st day KTOO NPR.mp3   95-65-01 1st day KTOO NPR.ogg

Oral History 95-65-02

First daily press briefing by Exxon Corporation on March 24, 1989 at the Civic Center in Valdez, Alaska.  The program is moderated by Dave Hammock. Original recording courtesy of KCHC. Recording is 01:30:59 hours in length.  95-65-02_1st-News_Briefing.mp3   95-65-02_1st-News_Briefing.ogg

00:00:21 –00:03:44 - Valdez Mayor John Devens, Sr. is interviewed and discusses the first city council emergency meeting about the spill, the appropriation of funds from Zone 3 money, and frustration of not being part of the decision making process.
00:04:14 – 00:04:41 – Musical interlude
00:04:41 – 00:19:46 - Presentation by Frank Iarossi, President of Exxon Shipping Company

Subject and time breakdown of Iarossi's presentation:

00:04:41 – Frank Iarossi apologies for any inconvenience caused by the oil spill. He says they are pulling in all their resources to mitigate the spill, and they assume full financial responsibility for the salvage and cleanup.  Two objectives are outlined:  to collect or disperse oil on the water; and to remove oil from the vessel and salvage the vessel.

00:07:19 – Frank Iarossi says they will be conducting their own investigation of how this incident occurred. He outlines current condition of the vessel, but first describes the vessel and gives a brief biography of the captain, Joseph Hazelwood. 

00:08:30 – Frank Iarossi describes flying over the vessel and outlines the damage known to date. 

00:09:03 – Frank Iarossi outlines the volume of oil believed to have escaped so far and how far the oil slick has spread into Prince William Sound.  He also discusses Aleyska’s efforts to cleanup.  They will bring the tanker, Baton Rouge, to offload the remaining oil on the ship.  The tanker Exxon San Francisco will be arriving tomorrow. 

00:10:56 – Frank Iarossi discusses the arrival of the response team leaders and members.

00:11:58 – Frank Iarossi says they are assembling experts on oil spill cleanup including dispersant application and mechanical cleanups, and they are assembling crews for cleanup.

00:14:14 – Frank Iarossi says they have set up a claims management team.

00:14:36 – Frank Iarossi discusses equipment being mobilized.

00:17:15 – Frank Iarossi reviews the plan they have to offload the remaining oil from the vessel.

00:18:10 – Frank Iarossi discusses the oil that is already on the water, how it is spreading south, and how they will be applying chemical dispersants to it the next morning.

00:18:45 – Frank Iarossi recaps what he has said, and how for 17 years they have not had an incident like this, but now have had two spills this month alone.  Floor open for questions.

00:19:46 – 01:23:32 – Open Discussion

Subject and time breakdown of discussion:

0019:46 - Dave Hammock gives station review. Questions are inaudible, but answers can be heard.

00:20:17 – Question is asked about why the ship was off the channel?  Iarossi responds that perhaps becasuse of moving ice, but that events that led to grounding are still being investigated and nothing has been fully answered yet.

O00:21:54 – Riki Ott asks questions and Dave Hammock summarizes. She asks about why there was not response as of 9:00 am this morning. Why was nothing done immediately?  She continues with statements rather than questions, such as: at 12:20 pm, approximately 12 hours after the reported spill, there was still no containment efforts observed. 

00:24:26 – Frank Iarossi tries to address Riki Ott's points and she continues to ask more questions.

00:24:56 – Riki Ott discusses the problems with using dispersants while Frank Iarossi discusses the pros for using dispersants.

00:26:37 – Riki Ott talks about the haze of the hydrocarbons in the air, and again reiterates how dispersants should not be an option

00:27:17 -  Anchorage Daily News reporter asks why something wasn't done earlier to contain the oil?  Frank Iarossi responds and discusses the logistics of moving equipment quickly to respond to spills.

00:32:34 – Frank Iarossi is asked if local help will be used in the cleanup.

00:32:50 – Frank Iarossi is asked what he is going to do about the herring fishery.

00:33:08 – A question is asked about why Exxon and Alyeska have not made a permanent storage area for oil spill emergency response equipment to be stockpiled in the Port of Valdez?  Iarossi responds.

00:35:10 – A question is asked about why the tanker was outside the shipping lane.

00:36:02 – Frank Iarossi explains what is supposed to occur in terms of response when an oil spill happens.

00:40:37 – Frank Iarossi discusses damage to the vessel’s cargo tanks and the process to off load the oil from the ship.

00:44:44 – Riki Ott says nothing has been done to protect the fishing industry and creeks. She is evidently frustrated about how nothing has been done so far in terms of response and environmental protection.

00:46:12 – Frank Iarossi discusses how many miles the oil slick has covered (covers 6 square miles at the time)

00:46:42 – Talking about how divers are at the vessel now, and they are bringing in skimmers to help clean up the oil.

00:47:49 – Concerns from those in attendance about wanting bays protected.

00:48:16 – Concerns from those in attendance about reduced crew size and fatigue are raised.

00:50:16 – Concerns raised over Coast Guard radar.

00:51:02 – Frank Iarossi says the ship was operational.

00:51:38 – Riki Ott discusses long-term effects on the fishery resources and financial reimbursements long after the spill.

00:53:45 – Plans for mobilization of the task forces and employment for local people is raised, as well as costs associated with cleanups.

00:57:26 – Permissions to test and use dispersants.

00:59:00 – Investigation to be done of causes of the accident.

01:00:48 – Coast Guard has immediate authority to use dispersants in Zone 1.

01:01:54 – Riki Ott explains what dispersants do to the oil and how it goes into the water column.  Frank Iarossi responds and they continue to, at times, have a heated debate about the issue along with others attending the news briefing raising similar concerns.

01:08:01 – Governor Steve Cowper has entered the room and begins to speak.

01:09:16 – Dave Hammock recaps the setting as public questions are inaudible.

01:10:02 – A question is asked about more people from the government being in Valdez to help deal with this.

01:12:50 – Governor Cowper discusses being on the vessel.

01:14:13 – The issue is raised about the safety of moving tankers out of Valdez at night during periods when there is a lot of ice coming from Columbia Glacier.

01:14:57 – Riki Ott raises a report about tankers and Governor Cowper responds. Riki also asks about slowing down the oil coming through the pipeline.

01:17:24 – A question is asked about whether the oil companies will take the initiative to stockpile equipment in Valdez, and if the government can require them to do this?  Dennis Kelso, Director of the State of Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation, responds.

01:20:54 – The issue is raised that local people could have been out this morning helping with the response and reluctance of the response team to accept these offers.

01:21:40 – Governor Cowper leaves the podium. Dave Hammock moderates saying that Exxon left when the Governor came in. He recaps the lines of questioning and events of the briefing.  End of news briefing.

01:23:32 – Back to the Valdez Civic Center with another update from Dave Hammock where he interviews Governor Steve Cowper.

Oral History 95-65-26 (excerpt)

Commentary by Mary Beth Holloman on March 31, 1989 expressing sadness about the environmental impact of the oil spill. Original recording courtesy of APRN and NPR. Recording is 3:11 minutes in length.  95-65-26 Mary Holloman.mp3   95-65-26 Mary Holloman.ogg

Oral History 95-65-26 (excerpt)

Alaska residents at a public meeting in Valdez, Alaska being angry with Exxon Corporation, April 1, 1989. Original recording courtesy of APRN and NPR. Recording is 4:15 minutes in length.  95-65-26 Angry Residents.mp3  95-65-26 Angry Residents.ogg

Oral History 95-65-26 (excerpt)

Vicky Vlasoff of the village of Tatitlek, Alaska in Prince William Sounds talks about the impacts to the community and their lifestyle from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, April 1, 1989. Original recording courtesy of APRN and NPR. Recording is 2:53 minutes in length. 95-65-26 Native Village Angry Residents.mp3   95-65-26 Native Village Angry Residents.ogg

Oral History 95-65-26 (excerpt)

Howard Weaver, editor of the Anchorage Daily News newspaper, discusses how Alaskans are feeling about the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and the community sense of loss and helplessness, April 3, 1989. Original recording courtesy of APRN and NPR. Recording is 4:23 minutes in length.  95-65-26 Sense of Loss.mp3   95-65-26 Sense of Loss.ogg

Oral History 96-65-51

Alaska News Nightly radio broadcast on April 7, 1989. Updates of events two weeks after the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: President George H.W. Bush extending further federal resources for the cleanup; impacts of the oil spill on Kodiak; and analysis and commentary. Original recording courtesy of APRN. Recording is 28:41 minutes in length. 95-65-51.mp3   95-65-51.ogg


19:40 – New rescue station to be set up in Seward and decontamination units set up for passing boats

21:20 – Alyeska ordered to create a spill response team to be on duty 24 hours per day

23:19 – Exxon boycott

24:24 – Emotional reactions to the oil spill and memories