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Report Of The Santa Barbara Oil Spill Of 1969

1304 words - 6 pages

Tuesday, January 29, 1969 began as a normal work day on Unions Oil's Platform Alpha off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Workers were pulling up a drilling tube in well A32 in order to replace a broken drill bit. When the tube became stuck, they continued to pull until approximately 10:45 a.m. when loose natural gas 3000 feet below the ocean's surface became dislodged, causing mud and oil to shoot up out of the water onto the panicked workers (Welsh, 1989, 1 para.). They were able to plug the well, but the pressurized oil and gas burst through the thin ocean floor 800 feet away from the platform. Five long gashes had been cut into the sea floor, allowing over 200,000 gallons of crude ...view middle of the document...

The founders fought for decreased drilling and encouraged the public to burn their oil company credit cards and to boycott gas stations that were associated with offshore drilling companies. Volunteers gather 100,000 signatures for a petition to ban offshore oil drilling (1969 Oil Spill, para. 12). Volunteers also established an emergency bird treatment center at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Birds were easy to catch since their feathers were soaked in so much oil that they could not fly away. Grebes, cormorants, loons, and other seabirds were washed in Polycomplex A-11, medicated, and kept under heat lamps in attempts to fend off pneumonia. Among the birds that were treated, less than 30 percent survived. Estimates put the total bird death somewhere between 3000 and 10,000 (1969 Oil Spill, para. 5).Along with the numerous volunteers, that media also played a very important role in the few positive results of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill. Newspapers, magazines, and televisions and radio broadcasts provided the country with countless reminders that the government and the oil industry had failed to prevent an environmental disaster. Leaders of political parties saw the public's worries that the government and the oil industry were incapable of protecting people from environmental hazards. The politicians focused in on the incident and used their campaign and debate speeches to promise future preventative action. The images of spreading oil slicks and dieing sea animals were delivered to homes on newly-popular color televisions (Graham, 1999, p. 29). The news media enhanced an increased interest in the environment. In the January, 1989 issue of Time magazine, the traditional "Man of the Year" award was temporarily altered to "Planet of the Year," with the award going to "Endangered Earth" (Dolan, 1989, para. 4). The increased media coverage that followed the Santa Barbara Oil Spill brought out much-needed public awareness of the environmental problems that resulted from offshore oil drilling. In an interview on marine oil spills, Michael Foster, a professor at San Jose State University who has done scientific research on the effects of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill, noted that "Mush of the oil spill literature [. . .] back then [. . .] about [. . .] cleanup had to do with how well the cleanup removed the oil. Very rarely did anybody ever look at the effects on the organisms" (Marine Oil Spills: To Clean or Not to Clean?, 1996, para. ?). The new attention on the effects that oil spills have on the living environment influenced Curtis Freese to become involved in the World Wildlife Fund. He believes that "we have only begun to feel the effects of the environment on our daily lives. It is going to be high on the agenda [soon] because people see it as a concern that is beginning to affect...

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