Shipwreck oil spill in Alaskan waters threatens wildlife refuge

A cargo ship that ran aground Wednesday on the shore of Unalaska Island, 800 miles southwest of Anchorage, has begun to leak fuel into sensitive wildlife habitat. After an unsuccessful search for lost crew members, officials have begun to survey the damage from the wreck; the freighter, which was loaded with soybeans and headed from Seattle to China, is now neatly split in two halves and creating a major oil spill that may take months to clean up. The slick measures 2.5 miles in diameter and is expanding farther into waters managed by the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, home to endangered marine mammals and threatened seabirds as well as healthy populations of salmon, halibut, and crab. Officials from Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation say the extreme weather conditions in the area and the dense, viscous nature of the vessel’s fuel will prove to be a challenge for those involved in the cleanup effort. Said DEC spokesperson Lynda Giguere, “It’s not good stuff.”