Minutes before supertanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, before rocks ripped a huge hole in her hull and a geyser of crude oil darkened Prince William Sound's pristine waters, the ship's lookout burst through the chart room door. "That light, sir, it's still on the starboard side. It should be to port, sir." Her frantic words were merely the last in a litany of futile warnings.
The parade of ultimately unkept promises began the next day. President Frank Iarossi pronounced that the Exxon Shipping Company had "assumed full financial responsibility." Alaska Governor Steve Cowper spoke at the Valdez Civic Center. "We don't want anybody to think that they have to hire a lawyer and go into federal court and sue the largest corporation in America."
Valdez native Bobby Day flew over the spill and knew his livelihood was in jeopardy. He struggled with betrayal and guilt, and later, tensions within a divided community. His story lends a local perspective and conveys the damage to individuals and the fishing industry.
Lengthy investigations revealed cover ups, reckless management, numerous safety violations, and a broken regulatory process. Lawmakers aligned with businesses, and fishermen spent nearly twenty years in litigation. Despite a massive cleanup effort, oil remains on beaches and continues to impact marine life.
Angela Day documents a story that stunned the world, recounts regional and national history, and explains how oil titans came to be entrusted with a spectacular, fragile ecosystem. It discusses environmental consequences, failed governmental and public policy decisions, and changes that offer hope for the future.
Red Light to Starboard won the Western Writers of America's 2015 Spur Award for Best Western Contemporary Nonfiction, two IndieFab Awards from ForeWord Magazine, and was named a 2015 American Library Association Outstanding University Press Title.