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Gordon Scott, Part 1
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 first part of a two part interview, Gordon Scott talks about how an information gathering trip to see the oil spill led to his involvement in the cleanup efforts, how he eventually got a contract to clean up oil in Prince William Sound, and the process of booming and skimming oil as part of the cleanup.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-26-19_PT.1

Project: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Date of Interview: Mar 25, 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
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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Finding out about the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Going to see the oil spill

Getting a contract to help cleanup oil

Cleaning up oil in Prince William Sound

Working with skimmers to remove oil

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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


ALICIA ZORZETTO: So today is March 25, 2014. I am here in the Anchorage office of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council. My name's Alicia Zorzetto and I am interviewing Gordon Scott.

Gordon, would you mind telling -- actually we could talk about your involvement before we get to the oil spill -- your involvement PWSRCAC. You’re a volunteer at -- for the OSPR Committee.


ALICIA ZORZETTO: Do you want to explain maybe a little bit about that first?

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah, well obviously it's a direct result of me being involved in 1989 with the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So it stands for Oil Spill Prevention and Response, right?



GORDON SCOTT: And since I did response for basically 186 days in 1989, I found myself to be quite valuable to the OSPR Committee -- Oil Spill Prevention and Response Committee for quite a while and I’m still on it.

I questioned how much value I have any more, but in the early days I was quite instrumental in many -- many things.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So maybe let’s - let’s move back in time and think about 25 years ago. What was your involvement during the spill of 1989? Where were you?

GORDON SCOTT: Well why don’t I start with --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You start back further if you want.

GORDON SCOTT: Start back further before it -- I was fishing for shrimp in Prince William Sound which opens on March 15th every year and I believe -- I’m not sure -- I had made one or two trips.

I think it was the second trip and I was in Anchorage selling shrimp when the Exxon Valdez hit the rocks on Friday morning I believe it was at one in the morning or 12:30 or -- and my schedule that I was on I sold shrimp Thursdays and Fridays here in Anchorage and around many of the offices in town from oil companies to lawyers, medical places, just office buildings, individuals all over the place and wholesalers.

And Friday morning I woke up and I looked at the newspaper and there was a headline that was this much of the front page, you know, like nine tenths of the front page about an oil tanker hit the rocks in Prince William Sound and I just thought so what.

I mean the bottom line is I was naive as could be about oil spills. I didn’t know a thing about them.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So you were fishing at the time.

GORDON SCOTT: I was fishing at the time. My gear was in the water in Prince William Sound and I was selling and so I read this article. Okay.

Bligh Reef. I think Bligh Reef is way over there, you know, and I don’t fish anywhere near that so. And then so I carry on with my regular thing. Make a lot of phone calls.

This is, of course, pre-internet, pre-cell phones so I made a whole lot of phone calls and organized my sales and then I run around town delivering shrimp to people and everybody to -- without exception said is this going to affect you because a lot of these customers had already been my customers for years and I was their contact with Prince William Sound.

And, of course, they read the paper and they all said is this gonna affect you? Are you going to be able to keep fishing for shrimp? Of course, you know, this isn’t going to affect me, you know, I’m a fisherman.

You know that’s an oil spill or that’s a tanker, you know.


GORDON SCOTT: And -- but -- and I went on about my business. It is very quick and very scheduled. Always up against the wire.

I had to make a train to Whittier on Friday night to go fishing. And, you know, towards the end of that day I kept thinking, you know, everybody's asked me about this and I’ve told everybody no it’s not gonna affect anything at all.

I don’t know anything, you know. Paper didn’t say more. It was a huge headline, but it didn’t indicate it was going to kill fishing or anything.

I didn’t know anything about oil spills. But I thought, you know, I am a well-known connection, a respected person amongst many offices in town.

And they’re all asking me about this and I’m out in Prince William Sound and I said, you know what I should do I should probably -- we should accelerate our schedule and granted this was March 24th -- March 25th is the day after.

I’m gonna be out there and I figured well the weather's calm. We hit Whittier we’re going to go out and we’re going to pull our gear at night which we can do because it is dead flat calm.

And if it is dead flat calm, we can find our buoys in the middle of the night and then we can blast across the sound over 60, 40 -- I don’t know how many miles and go take a look at this and then when I come back next week I’ll have this report because obviously everybody's been asking me, you know.

They want -- they want to know what I think about it.


GORDON SCOTT: So that’s what I did and I thought well if I’m doing that I should take cameras. So I grabbed whatever I had. I had a video camera and cameras and off we go and I pick up my crew I said okay we’re working all night so we can get over there before dark tomorrow.


GORDON SCOTT: And so that’s we did. We left Whittier and we drove -- we just drove to every buoy and pulled it and took care of it and I told them I said we’ll probably have a long sleep.

We probably won’t get back to the gear until Sunday afternoon. It’s a long drive, but my main focus was I didn’t want to reduce my prod-- have this reduce my production. I need to come into town with product. I got people who want it.


GORDON SCOTT: So that’s what we did. We got done with the gear I don’t know nine in the morning or whatever -- eight in the morning. Normally it is a full day’s work. We just did it all night.

Drive east. Well back up a little while we were pulling gear once we got to Outer Passage Canal and I can’t really tell you where, but once we got towards the more open part of the Sound it’s like this stinks out here.


GORDON SCOTT: You know we’re a hundred miles away from the spill or miles I’m not sure. We’re --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: And that’s at night.

GORDON SCOTT: A long ways away. Yeah. This is at night.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So you can’t see anything.

GORDON SCOTT: No, we can’t see anything and we’re eighty, a hundred miles away from the Exxon Valdez.


GORDON SCOTT: And this stinks. Well, the further we went out this really stinks. And I’m from the East Coast. I used to drive through New Jersey numerous times and New Jersey back in the 60’s all I kept thinking about this stinks like New Jersey.


GORDON SCOTT: I don’t think New Jersey smells like that now, but -- cause there's been a lot of efforts to improve the world everywhere. But that’s all I could think of.

Well, once we started just driving east now we’re eating up miles faster. We were just eating them up here and there and pulling our gear. This is really horrible and we still can’t see anything.

We’re miles and miles away and but we -- we were going to get there in daylight and everything was working as planned.

And we get there and we see a lot of boats out there so we head towards that and they’re out there (inaudible) Valdez -- they’re south of it and basically they were where the pool of oil was.

And we get there and I mean the stink was now it was just horrible and totally pervasive and pretty gross and so I ran into -- there was somebody driving a boat that I knew and so I pulled up to his boat.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Can I interrupt you for a second?


ALICIA ZORZETTO: Were you starting to get worried at all like when you started to smell this and --


ALICIA ZORZETTO: Or did it still --

GORDON SCOTT: No, I was still as naïve as ever -- the plan was we were going to take a look at it.


GORDON SCOTT: You know, whatever we got a couple hours of daylight, take some pictures and then head back west.


GORDON SCOTT: Get a big sleep and shrimp away the rest of the week and that way I could have -- I could report --


GORDON SCOTT: To my people in Anchorage.


GORDON SCOTT: Who all asked me and, you know, I also -- I bought the paper that time. It was an evening paper so I had the evening paper and, of course, I read that while we were on the boat and, of course, that was maybe a little bit more bizarre, but to me it was -- I still didn’t know anything about oil spills and it was a bad thing. And so --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So you arrive in (inaudible)

GORDON SCOTT: No, we arrived out there where the oil was.


GORDON SCOTT: And I talked to a guy I figured well let me see what’s going on here. I know one of these guys and he's driving a boat. He was a Whittier captain on a landing craft and said what’s going on? He says nothing.

And I said well, God, I could help -- if -- if I could help that will be great he says. Well you got to talk to the boss. He’s over there on the Pathfinder.

So I wonder around and there wasn’t nothing going on. Basically they had -- I don’t know if it was called that then but basically a trans type skimmer.

A very large capacity skimmer that was full of seaweed and not working very well and they didn’t have anything to really pump it into hardly, but they were doing something, but mainly they were trying to figure out how to make it work as I pulled up to it.

I came up to the Pathfinder -- this big tug and called up and said well here I am on the early time side, is there anything I can do to help? He says go to Valdez and sign a contract.

I said well I’m right here and you don’t understand I’m right here I’m a hundred yards off your bow, you know, can I help you? Go to Valdez and sign a contract.

No, I want to help you. I’m right here. Is there anything I can do to help? Go to Valdez and sign a contract. You can’t, you know, so I just drove around for a little while and I milled that and it’s like I don’t want to go to Valdez. I got to get back to fishing tomorrow.

Valdez is another 60 miles or so and finally I went and talked to my friend. And finally I said well, you know, maybe -- okay I can’t help them. Maybe if I go to Valdez I can sign a contract and then I can help them and yeah, I’ll just stay for a day and then I’ll really have a good report for all my Anchorage, you know. Because I’m the Prince William Sound connection.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah, you are.

GORDON SCOTT: For a lot of important people in town, you know. They’re important to me, but most of them are -- had big important jobs. And so I thought well okay let’s go to Valdez. So off we go.

Drive to Valdez. It’s dark of course by now and it was a long drive in. We get there and well get to Valdez well where do we go. He said that something over on the dock over by the terminal.

So I went over there and they said well you got to go over there and talk to Exxon Command. Where’s that? They’re in by the harbor up some place.

So in the harbor we go in the middle of the night -- midnight or whatever it was.

So we go up to this place called Exxon Command or whatever it was called -- the place where we were told to go and there was a whole bunch of people in there and there was phones ringing and there were people people and they said put your name on this list, you know.

And they explained a few things and so I put my name on the list and hung around and I’m hearing phone calls in the background and this and that and then also talking to other people out front who were just really mad. They'd been on the list and aren’t doing anything and this and that. And I thought I can’t afford to wait around to be on a list.

I got to go fishing, you know. And shrimping is not a get rich quick fisheries. You just got to just keep doing it. You miss a day you miss opportunity.

And now already by driving in here getting back to fish on Sunday was like I mean it was I made the choice and came in. So I thought about it and I kept saying well and I was listening to what was going on.

I was hearing in the background and was listening to phone calls -- people on the phones and there was a whole bunch of people in there. There was activity -- lots of activity and I realized what was happening was they were getting calls for people with -- with boats and they were calling people off the list and, of course, a lot of those boats were on shore and buried under the snow or this or that and it is like we’re ready to go.

So every time I’d hear a phone ring okay do we want such and stuff and I just raised my hand Early Times. We’re right here. We’re ready to go, you know.

And the bottom line is that worked.


GORDON SCOTT: I actually -- it didn’t work right then, but I went back to the boat. I was beaten -- really tired. I had to go to sleep.

I told one of my deckhands I said go up there. Every time you hear the phone ring say Early Times we’re ready to go just stay there.


GORDON SCOTT: And now we are getting to the wee hours of the morning and I think I got about two hours of sleep and he comes running down to the boat and he says, Gordon, he says you got to go up there right now. You got to go up there really fast and run, run, run.

Of course, I’m so tired I’m waking up, oh, no, come on, I want to sleep, but his urgency told me --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You got to go.

GORDON SCOTT: That he had made a deal they’d wait for ten minutes or something.


GORDON SCOTT: So I go sprinting up there and they throw a contract in front of me and I’m -- I was very wide awake running up there, but I also was extremely tired and I was -- played the real dumb thing and they sit there and throw this contract in front of me and I’m going --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: And that was Alyeska, right, to clarify that gave you the contract?

GORDON SCOTT: It was an Alyeska contract, the first one. Who was in the office I can’t tell you.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. The contract was written by Alyeska.



GORDON SCOTT: And so basically they threw some numbers on there and I just kind of was being grumpy and I was hearing that other people are doing the same kind of thing, so they erased it, wrote it down a bigger number and they erased it and wrote down a bigger number and I’m just going, ah, ah, ah, ah and then finally I just signed it.

I said okay and I said I mean we’re ready to go, you know. The engine's warm. We can be gone as soon as I can get back to the boat.

So we got dispatched to burn oil and we went over across the bay and picked up some fire boom at four in the morning or something like that and out we go and then, of course, by now it was Sunday.

And as we were driving out it was -- and it was like -- I’m going to say eight boats dispatched to do this, you know, each -- every other one had some fire boom on deck. So you have plunk pairs (phonetic). I didn’t know anything about towing boom. I didn’t even know what boom was, except it was a big stack about ten feet high on my deck.


GORDON SCOTT: And so we go out there and head towards -- they kept telling us where to go. Well the wind was picking up. Everybody knows the history. It was dead calm for two days and then it changed.

And it did change big time. We went right under the big pool of oil and finally they kind of called off. They said it was blowing too hard for us to do it. Said everybody is going to go to some bay and so but we'd been out in a big pool of oil whatever it was ten miles south of the tanker or some place south of it.

And then I turned back to go to some bay and one of my biggest memories is after we turned back and everybody has heard from childhood that you can calm waters by pouring oil on them.

You know from fairy tales or whatever the history. I had heard about it since childhood and it was just some fairy tale kind of thing or whatever it was. Well it was blowing seventy and the waves were, you know, six inches to two feet high.


GORDON SCOTT: And when it is blowing seventy in the Sound the waves are from six to ten feet high.


GORDON SCOTT: It was and they were weird looking and I just kept looking at them. These are really weird, you know.

Occasionally they’d break and they’d break about this high, you know, inches high and it would be this little brown curl and -- but they just looked so weird.

You didn’t really know it was blowing that hard by looking out the window.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. Just so heavy on the water.

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah. And, you know, I tell everybody -- so anyway and I had my video camera and stuff and I was actually taking pictures. We turned around and went back in towards the wind because we had to go find shelter and watching these waves now I was looking at them coming at us out the front and that’s when they were really looking weird.

And at some point within the first ten minutes all of a sudden one of these waves breaks and I tell everybody that we took a wave of oil over the bow. Really what happened is and I always explain to people, but what happened is that wave which was only maybe a foot high and the bow was four or five feet out of the water that wave slapped the bow right when it was breaking and the wind sent the oil in a curtain over the bow.


GORDON SCOTT: And here I am I got about eight portholes about a foot high by ten inches wide across the front of the wheelhouse and I was actually filming with my video camera these waves cause they were so weird and all of a sudden here’s this splash and the world turns black cause the windows became black.


GORDON SCOTT: Along with the starboard side of my boat and the whole -- everything that is facing forward half way up the mast.


GORDON SCOTT: And it’s like wow. I need to be able to see.


GORDON SCOTT: It is also pushing towards dark. It wasn’t dark yet, but we all know it’s gonna be dark by the time we get into port and there are icebergs out there.


GORDON SCOTT: So we got to get -- not to port -- to an anchorage and, you know, we were just a fishing boat. We had a bottle of Joy on board. So I told my deckhand I say hey I need to be able to see, but we may be taking more waves out and go clean every other window.

And so he goes out there and, of course, he gets dirtier then grunt while he is doing it, but he cleans every other window and we managed to -- I managed to have not have any more come over the bow.


GORDON SCOTT: Just cause I didn’t want all of a sudden have that blackness.


GORDON SCOTT: And that was quite an eye opener, you know, this is no fairy tale.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah. That’s when you -- that’s when you connected that this could be -- this could be a disaster.

GORDON SCOTT: I was still as naïve as could be, you know. I had this boom on deck. I didn’t have a clue how it's used. I didn’t, you know, I mean everybody in the oil spill business around RCAC boom is taken for granted now.

Everybody knows what it is. I didn’t know what it was and I had 700 feet of it on my deck.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Did you still think you could fish that --

GORDON SCOTT: Oh, yeah. My whole concern was I got to get out here, do some work.


GORDON SCOTT: You know and then say bye. I’m going back to fishing cause I got -- I got people to report to.


GORDON SCOTT: They're important people. They’re my customers and -- and I was just as naïve as could be about oil spills. I didn’t know the first thing about them.


GORDON SCOTT: And so we went to anchor up and there is a lot of stories that I can bypass. We had a reporter on board who talked his way on board at four in the morning.


GORDON SCOTT: So that was kind of an interesting twist. He wanted to get out there. I said well I can’t bring you back, you know. He says I just want to get out there, you know.

So I was hearing a lot of stuff. But I was hearing a lot of stuff about what was going on in Valdez which I never would have known otherwise, you know, in the first day and a half or day and a quarter or whatever before he got on board.

And so then, you know, it’s history lets us know it blew for three days. Basically we went and anchored up and we didn’t move for three days and it was incredibly frustrating.

Radio chatter was, you know, trying to figure out what’s going on, of course. I mean we had -- we drug anchor a few times. We had to reset anchor.

And there were other boats around and it was whatever there was, but still we had this experience already and then finally the weather calmed down and they sent -- it was, like I said, there was this group of eight -- about eight boats and somebody was in charge of us and they sent us out and we tried to burn the oil.

And well actually the first thing we did was they sent some people to shore and it was by Lower Passage I believe and two of my -- my two deckhands went and about five or six other people from other boats and that was a real eye opener cause they came back their eyes were as big as saucers and they were telling about how messed up this was.

They were told to go on shore and do something. There was some boom that was on shore and they were trying to retrieve it or I don’t know if it was on a plane I don’t really remember or maybe they were going to try to set some boom there, but the oil was chest deep on the shore.


GORDON SCOTT: And, you know, they got out and had mustang suits and those mustang suits were just as black as could be and, of course, we still had this boom on deck and we just -- when we stacked it, we had a little tiny narrow entry to our door.

And so when they back and I told them I said hey you got to take those off out there. So they took them off on top of the pile of boom which was about eight or ten feet high and then they climbed down in.

I heard all these tales about how messed up it was, they were told to do this. Basically a bunch of people went to shore and they really didn’t do anything, except wade around in oil.

And then the next day somebody came along who was supposedly an expert and he was. He -- and we actually tried to burn some oil and, of course, they had been through three days of 70 knot winds and anybody who knows anything about it now you can’t burn it after its been through that much turbulence.


GORDON SCOTT: But we tried and we had some mini successes. We get a chunk where we boom up some oil and we’d get it to burn for like half an hour, but it would just be burning at the leading edge of what you had in your boom and finally it would go out and we were trying different stuff and there was a helicopter with a helitorch dropping stuff on.

They gave us some Napalm we’d float back -- light and float back there.


GORDON SCOTT: But it wasn’t successful in the big picture.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Maybe that’s why I haven’t heard many people talk about the -- the burning.

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah, well they did do -- when we were driving into Valdez to go sign a contract, which I thought all I had to do was go in and sign it.

I didn’t know I was going to be in line and all that stuff, but we saw in the distance in Tatitlek Narrows they actually did a test burn that night.


GORDON SCOTT: We saw that happen and I think they did two of them that night. I don’t remember.


GORDON SCOTT: In looking back in history and I guess that was quite successful and on the strength of that, that happened at like nine, ten at night or whatever. At four in the morning we were -- a crew was sent out to burn.


GORDON SCOTT: And basically we tried for several days, you know, and -- but it never really worked well. So and then as things morphed and I can’t tell you exactly how it morphed initially, but, you know, there was a lot of frustration from everybody that was out there because everybody was out there and nobody was really doing anything productive.

I mean it’s not that they weren’t trying, but, you know, and the, you know, retro -- you know, hindsight you kind of know what was going on.

There wasn’t anything material to do anything with. There was no place to put stuff if you collected it and, you know, they did have some material there like the boom, you know, that was under twenty feet of snow I guess when the spill happened. But they got some out.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So would you say that Alyeska was not very organized as far as providing equipment and whatnot for the --

GORDON SCOTT: Well, yes, totally. You know, the complacency, you know, like I say, all the oil spill equipment that Alyeska had -- what little bit there was, was under twenty feet of snow.


GORDON SCOTT: When the tanker hit the rocks.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Did the people of Alyeska -- was there a sense of urgency or was it kind of -- like what --

GORDON SCOTT: The only people I really talked to were the ones in the contracting office and they -- they were just whatever I mean. Yeah, they were getting calls we need this and that or we need these boats and they were just set up for hiring boats and --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: They're just planning --

GORDON SCOTT: Somebody was making plans probably behind there. But, you know, the bottom line is they didn’t have material to make plans with.


GORDON SCOTT: But they were -- they were doing what they could at the time. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do anything those two days when the wind wasn’t blowing cause that was the time they could have made a good dent in things.

So now the oil was spread out all over the place. It was on the beaches. It was in the water. It was all over the place. It wasn’t just in a big pool like when I drove up to it.

And it ended up -- I ended up towing boom for basically the first three, four months of the summer. Ended up with a partner boat that was a good match for me -- a good friend of mine actually who sought me out after the first week.

He was also a shrimper and he said, and first he said I ain’t going to go -- go do that stuff. And I don’t think he was as naïve as I was, but he says Gordon’s fishing I’m not quitting fishing, you know.

And then finally he heard something that I was out there and he calls me on the radio and I said, yeah, I’m working out here. He said I’m gonna -- I'm gonna be to be working with you and he actually -- he went and got himself signed up and then he sought me out and we became partners for six months.

Which was really good. We worked well together. We worked through a lot of problems together which was the whole thing was a problem.


GORDON SCOTT: Unfortunately, my biggest -- my, you know, my memories are --


GORDON SCOTT: A bunch of -- there’s so many angles on them. It ended up after a little while and you start finding out what’s going on, you know. We were towing boom and collecting oil and we started doing that when we started trying to burn it.

Well, then they just kind of abandoned the burning efforts without ever telling anybody. They just stopped and we kept doing it as long -- until we ran out of Napalm.

And, but then we were collecting it, well what do we do with it?


GORDON SCOTT: You know, we’d call them up and oh, just stand by, you know. Standby was the common thing on the radio from Exxon, from whoever was in charge.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of people out there -- a lot of fishermen out there who took that to heart and granted it was frustrating doing anything out there, but a lot of them were out there just collecting a paycheck.

Granted they weren’t really given a lot of good tools to work with.


GORDON SCOTT: You know, but the thing that kind of developed over a period of a few weeks was we never took that for granted. As a matter of fact, when we were told to standby, we -- we took that to mean we could standby wherever we want to standby and we’d go out and search for oil to collect.

It might be twenty miles away or whatever and then we’d get our boom on it and collect -- start collecting oil and after a little while when we have a boom full of oil, we’d call them up and say, hey, we’re over here at such and such a place we need a skimmer to -- cause we got a boom full of oil.

Oh, I thought you were standing by. Yeah, well we’re standing by right here with a boom full of oil.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: That’s pretty good.

GORDON SCOTT: You know, instead of standing by at anchor here and anchor because that was kind of what happened and there was a trend that happened. There weren’t many people doing that cause most people were standing by.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: That’s crazy.

GORDON SCOTT: And so we’d -- they’d finally get a skimmer. Sometimes we wait a day or two for one and there were different kinds of skimmers that showed up and, of course, what’s a skimmer?

Well, I learned what they were as soon as they started showing up and then I learned it was a different kind when a different kind shows up, but vacuum trucks were the big thing early on.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Vacuum trucks?

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah. Kind of a barge with a vac -- with a septic --


GORDON SCOTT: You know, like a septic pump.


GORDON SCOTT: Truck on it and then, of course, they have tankage and that was the big thing early on you got and so they’d suck the oil up and they would decant some of the water out from under in the tank and then they suck more up and all stuff that I didn’t have a clue of.


GORDON SCOTT: Kind of learned on the fly. So what kept happening was okay we’d get a skimmer, but we’d fill it up and now they got to drive some place -- this barge or boat that --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Can you explain that just for anyone that’s watching what -- so the boom contains the oil and then you put the skimmer within the contained oil --

GORDON SCOTT: Yeah, there’s -- in -- when the case of the vacuum truck, no, it is just a hose -- it is just like the truck that comes out to do septic tanks, except they hold the hose just inches above the water. Where you’ve got black --


GORDON SCOTT: Where you’ve got a lot of oil.


GORDON SCOTT: In the boom and then as they suck that oil out we would pull one end of the boom by and make it smaller.


GORDON SCOTT: So they could end up getting most of the oil out of the boom. That was how it worked with the vacuum trucks.

Well that goes into a tank in this landing craft or whatever it was on and, you know, initially it was all smaller vessels and they filled up pretty quickly and we’d get 30, 40,000 gallons of oil that was about what our boom would hold normally and I think our average catch for most of the time was in that 30 to 40,000 gallons and we figured out how to compute that by the depth of the skirt of the boom and how full it was.

So we’d report in how much we had and that would help them. Well so we filled them up.

Okay, they say thanks and they were all Alaskans, you know, and so they were really jazzed to pick up this oil cause they’re helping. Of course, now they got to work to get rid of that oil.


GORDON SCOTT: So that they can come back and get more. Well and that would take a couple days, you know. So we’d -- next day we’d be standing by five, six miles away from some place with a boom full of oil and call in and get somebody else over there and after a while it is like we got to know these boats -- these that had these skimmers -- these vacuum trucks initially.

They were all vacuum trucks initially that we dealt with. And so then instead of calling Exxon Command whoever they were at the time we’d just call the boat and say hey, you know, boat XYZ, meet us over by such and such of a point.

We have about 30,000 gallons for you. Okay, we’ll be there and we got this and yeah, we’ll be there in a couple hours. Okay. Perfect.

And so we’d get rid of that and then we’d move on. Well, after a little while Exxon in their great designs we’re being too effective and, of course, I’m assuming that -- they would tell the driver of that boat said you cannot pickup any oil from the Early Times any more.


GORDON SCOTT: And they’d go, why? They said because you have to be over here doing this. They said well he’s got a boom full of oil we might as well go pick it up. No, you can’t do that.

So they would take skimmer after skimmer away from us so we’d have to find another. By now we were working the radio channels and we’d call Exxon or whoever -- whoever we reported to, but we’d just start calling around fishermen.

Anybody -- is there anybody with a skimmer out there. We got 30,000 gallons of oil by such and such of an island, you know, anybody can get there in the next six hours or whatever.

And we’d start scheduling our own. Well, once we’d had a few deliveries to them, they’d pull them away from us and it got incredibly frustrating and we’d talk to them and say why and the only reason is because -- because they were supposed to be over here.

And they aren’t collecting any -- they drive over there. They’re over there. Nobody is picking up oil.


GORDON SCOTT: But they are not allowed to come over and breakaway from that group of boats and come service us. And it was -- we ended up working through it every time. We’d figure something out.

We’d always find somebody. We did a lot of different things. Sometimes we’d anchor up a boom for a while for three days and use somebody else’s and we would watch that and as soon as it was there and we were protecting our boom.

We figured it was our paycheck too. By now going back I realized I’m not going back. I’m not going to be fishing.


GORDON SCOTT: You know, I mean this -- this happened over time so, like, I’m busy.


GORDON SCOTT: I’m doing something that needs to be done. Hell with fishing.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Did you feel --

GORDON SCOTT: I was making big money too. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: The numbers they put on there were big numbers and believe you me my eyes got this big when I first saw them.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Did you feel threatened at all like with your fishing industry with the, you know, that -- was that connecting still or was it just I’m not gonna do it right now?

GORDON SCOTT: There was -- I don’t remember the time line the shrimp fishery was closed at some point. I’m going to say within two or three weeks of the spill.


GORDON SCOTT: And I got word of that somehow. I was out there now. I was --


GORDON SCOTT: You know, you didn’t have cell phones. You didn’t have internet.


GORDON SCOTT: Somehow I got word of that and but it’s like, hey, I’m busy, you know.


GORDON SCOTT: My pots are in the water.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Oh, that’s right, yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: But I’m busy. Boat is covered with oil. We’re busy. We’re going -- we went around the clock when we could.


GORDON SCOTT: Twenty-four hours a day for months. Obviously the weather precluded us from doing that some nights, but -- but, you know, once you’re hooked up with a boom you got to go half a knot.


GORDON SCOTT: Or else you lose it and we -- we could tie them off if we had to. Well we spent our life -- I’ve always said if I’d write a book about the oil spill, it would be titled Life at Half a Knot cause the only time we got to go at six knots was after we dumped -- emptied out a boom.

You know and then it’s like, okay, where do we start next.


GORDON SCOTT: And we would scout. We had skiffs. We each had a skiff and we would scout a lot of territory to figure out on our own where the best place to collect oil was where we could -- cause once we hook up and start towing and oiling that boom.

If we go more than a half a knot we lose whatever we catch.


GORDON SCOTT: So we would do that and we’d kind -- we’d send the skiffs out all the time to see what’s ahead, you know. Should we go left or should we go right?

We did a lot of creative things as one of the passages we anchored up. We were anchored up and collecting oil all night long. We’d turn our rudders --


GORDON SCOTT: To move us slightly one side to the other.


GORDON SCOTT: But the streak of oil was following the current right down the center of this channel. We did stuff with the skiffs in shallow water -- holding one end of the boom in real shallow water. We did -- and we invented all this stuff ourselves.

The one guy the very first day -- Al Allen was his name. He is a noted spill consultant around. He was the one who showed up that very first day we had boom and he said this is what you do when we were trying to burn it.

That was the only teaching I ever had. After that it was all figure it out and we figured out a lot of different things and a lot of little tactics.

A lot of which are in use today and I helped, you know, in the initial days of the RCAC developed a lot of those and get them into, you know, into the fishing vessel response tactics and it's -- they aren't necessarily all unique they’re just, you know.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Well you learned during that spill those tactics you were able to provide that information to RCAC and then now it's being used by other fishermen for training in case there is ever another oil spill --



ALICIA ZORZETTO: That’s pretty awesome.

GORDON SCOTT: Of course, you know, everything is morphed since then to much greater in this or that and equipment's changed, but -- but a lot of the basics of it is, you know, it is not rocket science, but --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: When you were saying the currents like you mentioned --


ALICIA ZORZETTO: And things like that, yeah.

GORDON SCOTT: And -- but it was real frustrating when they were -- kept taking these things away.