Saturday, 29 January 2011

What’s an oil spill?

Oil Spills
Imagine yourself as a killer whale. You are swimming around when you decide to stick your head out of the water to take a breath. As you are taking a breath, you see a large stream of thick black oil heading your way. You go back under water only to find other animals dying one by one because the oil is damaging their bodies.
This is the way some animals must die in the ocean. They die because of an oil spill occurring in their habitat

Oil spills happen when people make mistakes or are careless and cause an oil tanker to leak oil into the ocean. There are a few more ways an oil spill can occur. Equipment breaking down may cause an oil spill. If the equipment breaks down, the tanker may get stuck on shallow land. When they start to drive the tanker again, they can put a hole in the tanker causing it to leak oil.
When countries are at war, one country may decide to dump gallons of oil into the other country’s oceans.
Terrorists may cause an oil spill because they will dump oil into a country’s ocean. Many terrorists will do this because they are trying to get the country’s attention, or they are trying to make a point to a country.
Illegal dumpers are people that will dump crude oil into the oceans because they do not want to spend money on decomposing their waste oil. Because they won’t spend money on breaking up the oil (decomposing it) they will dump oil into the oceans, which is illegal.
Natural disasters (like hurricanes) may cause an oil spill, too. If a hurricane was a couple of miles away, the winds from the hurricane could cause the oil tanker to flip over, pouring oil out.
What affects do oil spills have on animals?
Birds die from oil spills if their feathers are covered in oil. The bird will then be poisoned because it will try to clean itself. Animals may die because they get hypothermia, causing their body temperature to be really low. They may die from really low body temperature. Oil may also cause the death of an animal by entering the animal’s lungs or liver. The animal will then be poisoned by the oil. Oil also can kill an animal by blinding it. The animal will not be able to see and be aware of their predators. If they are not aware of other animals, they may be eaten.
Visit the website below to watch an amazing video on how millions of penguins were injured in an oil spill! This website is one you need to visit!
Oil spills sometimes are the reason for animals becoming endangered. This means that a certain type of animal is getting so small that it is in danger of becoming extinct.
Sea Birds
Seabirds are strongly affected by oil spills. A seabird may get covered in the oil. The thick black oil is too heavy for the birds to fly, so they attempt to clean themselves. The bird then eats the oil to clean its feathers and poisons itself. If workers have found sea birds that are not dead because of oil, they will take the birds to a cleaning center or captivity where they are kept in a facility because they can not live in the wild on their own. Animals that are in captivity because of an oil spill will be cleaned by professionals and volunteers. When a bird is in captivity, the oil will be flushed from its eyes, intestines, and feathers. The bird will be examined for any more injuries like broken bones, and it will take a medicine to prevent any more damage.
After the bird seems healthier, it will take a test on its abilities to float in the water and keep water away from its body. As soon as the bird passes its test, it will soon be let out into the wild.
Sea Otters
Sea otters are affected by oil in many ways. The otters’ bodies may get covered in oil, which causes build up in the otters’ air bubbles. These air bubbles are located in their fur and help them survive the cold oceans. They act like a covering for their body and help the otters to float. When oil builds up in the air bubbles, the otters may die of low body temperature. Many sea otters are being placed in captivity after an oil spill until the otters are cleaned and ready to live in the ocean again.
Killer Whales
Oil spills are one of the many ways killer whales have become endangered. The oil may be eaten or enter the whale’s blowhole. A blowhole is a hole to help them breath. Whales will rise up over the water to take a breath. If the blowhole is plugged with oil, the whale can not breathe. The main reason for whales dying because of a spill happens when they eat a fish that swam through the oil. If a fish swam through the oil, the whale will eat the oil along with the fish. Because the whale has eaten the oil, it will be poisoned, and it will die.
Small Organisms
Many people don’t realize all the animals in the ocean that oil spills affect. Plankton, larval fish, and bottom dwelling organisms are strongly affected. Even seaweed, clams, oysters, and mussels can be affected by oil spills. Only off- shore accidents can really cause the death of these small living creatures because this is mainly the home for these small organisms.
When hundreds of plankton die because of oil, that specie of animal may become extinct. Then, fish won’t be able to eat the plankton, so they will become extinct. A killer whale could then become extinct because it can’t eat the fish.
This is what happens when a specie from animal becomes extinct of a large oil spill. The oil spills can damage the entire food chain in the area.
What is the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill?
The Exxon Valdez incident was a major oil spill. This oil spill took place on March 23, 1989 at Prince William Sound in Alaska.
How did it happen?
The drivers of the Exxon Valdez noticed icebergs in their planned route. Instead of trying to weave through the icebergs, they decided to go in another direction. On the new route, the oil tanker hit shallow land. The shallow land was not a beach, it was called Bligh Reef.
Imagine an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The Exxon Valdez spilled about 125 Olympic-sized swimming pools. You also can think of it as 108 homes or 430 classrooms. 797 living rooms or 9 school gyms can explain about how much oil was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
How did the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill affect the animals at Prince William Sound?
The Exxon Valdez affected many animals at Prince William Sound in Alaska. The spill greatly affected sea otters and sea birds. There were about 2,800 sea otters and 250,000 seabirds killed by the spill. Harbor seals, bald eagles, killer whales, and salmon were also greatly affected by the spill.
Many people complained about the large amount of sea otters dumped in crude oil because Prince William Sound was a tourist attraction. Many people came to Prince William Sound to visit the animals.
How many animals are recovering after ten years?
The table below shows all the animals that are not recovering, recovered, recovering, and that the recovering is unknown. It shows that only two species had recovered ten years after the spill. It also shows how many animals are still recovering ten years later.
Not Recovering Animals
Recovered Animals
Recovering Animals
Recovering is unknown
Common Loon
Bald eagle
Black oystercatcher
Cutthroat trout
River otter
Common murre
Dolly Varden
Harbor Seal
Marbled murrelett
Kittlitz murrelet
Harlequin Duck
Killer Whale
Pacific Herring
Pigeon Quillemont
Pink Salmon
Sea otter
Sockeye Salmon
How long did it take to clean the up spill?
Because the spill impacted 1,300 miles, it took the Exxon Valdez Company four summers to clean up the spill. Some oil may still remain on the beaches. It took 10,000 workers, 1,000 boats, 100 airplanes, and the Navy, Army, and Air Force to clean up the spill. Exxon spent about $2.1 billion for the clean up.
The oil flow of the Exxon Valdez
Look at the diagram below. This diagram shows where the oil flowed and how far it flowed through Alaska. The map also tells you where the oil spill started in Alaska, which would be in Prince William Sound.
Day 790 miles
Day 11
140 miles
Day 15
180 miles
Day 19
250 miles
Day 38
280 miles
                    Day 56                                   Day 40                   470 miles                                 350 milesGREEN=The oilSTAR=Prince William Sound
What is a doubled hulled ship?
A Doubled Hulled Ship
A doubled-hulled ship is used for taking oil from one place to another. This boat contains two layers. One layer is where the oil is stored. Another layer surrounds it. If there were a crack in the boat, it wouldn’t have a large affect on the animals because not that much oil would spill as if it was a regular tanker. The crack would have to go through another layer in order to get to the oil. 
Look at the diagram to the left, and it will give you an idea of what a doubled-hulled ship looks like. As you see, the boat has two layers. The middle layer holds all the oil. When there is a crack in the outer layer, it won’t cause any oil to spill out. 
An Oil Tanker
If you look at the regular tanker to the right, you will see that there only has to be one crack in the tanker in order to leak. This shows that a doubled-hulled ship will not have such a large chance of causing a spill.
Why didn’t the Exxon Valdez have a double hull?
If the Exxon Valdez were a doubled-hulled ship, the chance of an oil spill would be 60% smaller. They wouldn’t have a great spill in the ocean.
If the chances of a spill would be much smaller, why didn’t the Exxon Valdez buy a doubled-hulled ship? A doubled-hulled ship costs $300,000,000 in America. A regular oil tanker costs about $200,000,000. The Exxon company decided to wait until the year 2015 in order to buy a doubled-hulled ship. The Law says that every tanker must be a double hull ship by 2015.