On the evening of March 23, 1989, Captain Joseph Hazelwood retired to his stateroom for the night, leaving his ship, the 987-foot, 240,000-ton Exxon Valdez, in the less-than-capable hands of his (unlicensed) 3rd mate. Shortly after midnight, the oil tanker fetched up on Bligh Reef, cracked open and, over 3 days, spilled almost 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine waters of Prince William Sound, contaminating more than 1,000 miles of coast line, 200 of it very badly… damage still evident today. Hundreds of thousands of animals — fish, birds, otters — lost their lives, in what must have been viewed from their eyes, their own hellish pandemic. A literal Black Death oozing towards them, like some Stephen King horror swamp creature brought to life.
Captain Hazelwood was crucified in the press and public opinion. Every bad story needs its villain, and he took the hit. Ultimately, the captain is responsible for his ship, period… but for things to go so wrong, there’s usually more to it… and there was, but that didn’t stop the finger pointing, and all of those fingers pointed to him.
More recently, like yesterday at around 4:30pm, The Spirit of Vancouver Island, a B.C. ferry, had a bit of a hard landing in Tsawwassen after its 90-minute journey from Victoria. The ship was slightly damaged, but no oil was spilled and no injuries were reported, and other than the hassle for some people having to wait up to 4 hours to disembark (and completely wrecking the day’s schedule for sailings), that was pretty much it.
I wasn’t on that ferry (and unless you had some urgent business, you shouldn’t have been either), but I can imagine what was going on after that happened. An announcement… “Sorry folks, as I’m sure you realize, blahblahlah, we’ll sort it out”. After that, for the people who were stuck on board, more “sorry” and free juice. At the time it happened, on the bridge, right after that veritable “Oh… shit” moment, someone saying “Sorry… so sorry, my bad”. As the last cars and trucks finally drove off, I’m sure there were more waves from the crew, and “sorry”. After the fact, B.C. Ferries put out at statement saying… yeah, you guessed it.
It is such a Canadian thing; we are … [Continue Reading]