Darkened Waters, a graphic exposition of environmental disaster, opening at Sternberg

Two weeks after the Sternberg Museum of Natural History opened in its new home, the residents, human and wildlife, of Prince William Sound, Alaska, passed the 10th anniversary of the 11-million-gallon oil spill known simply by the name of the ship that hit Bligh Reef: Exxon Valdez.

On Saturday, Dec. 11, Darkened Waters: Profile of an Oil Spill opens for an extended stay at the Sternberg Museum. Darkened Waters is a traveling exhibit by the Pratt Museum, Homer Alaska.

Visitors to the exhibit can:

* See specimens from the mammals, birds, fish and other natural resources affected by the spill.
* Hear a recording of the radio conversation between the Coast Guard and the captain of the Valdez in the first moments of the spill.
* Use a variety of interactive components to visualize the magnitude of the event.
* Hear the taped stories of area residents, volunteers and professionals who, 10 years later, are still struggling to clean up and restore the large area of pristine wilderness damaged by the oil.
* Hear the voices of the native people of Alaska, fisherman, and oil executives as they talk about their experience with the spill.
* Examine the impact on the ecology of Prince William Sound at the time of the spill.
* See victims of the oil � preserved birds and microscopic displays of plankton.
* See graphic film footage that shows how some of the animals were saved, cleaned of oil, and released.
* See, touch and smell samples from the accident scene and see numerous interactive displays that explain the physical processes and deadly effects of a massive oil spill.
* Follow the evolution of the cleanup through updates that show how the scene has changed in the years since the spill.

Darkened Waters, the 10th changing exhibit featured at the museum since the re-opening in March of this year, will be at the Sternberg Museum for more than two years, providing a vivid exposition of the ecology of the coastal Alaskan wilderness and the impact on that ecology of the accident and the progression of efforts to clean up the land and sea and restore wildlife populations.

Some of the stories are about successes, some are of failures, and many tell of outcomes still in doubt. Darkened Waters offers an invaluable modern environmental case study. When the 987-foot Exxon Valdez ran aground on an underwater reef, ripping holes into eight cargo tanks, it resulted in the worst oil spill ever in U.S. waters. But this 10-year old story is not ancient history. It is an ongoing saga of disaster and despair, hope and courage. It is about a struggle for understanding, and about planning and preparation as oil continues to be transported around the world in massive quantities by ship, pipeline, and truck.

Are we ready for another large spill? What can, or should, we do? Darkened Waters focuses attention on these and many other questions about the spill, including many conflicting opinions on the answers.

Along with the exhibit, the Sternberg Store will sell viewbooks filled with pictures and information on the event and the cleanup. Videos compiled from footage shot by local television news crews will also be available at the store.

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