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 the pristine waters of Prince William Sound, 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.” A week later, 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 realized his livelihood was in jeopardy. He struggled with feelings of betrayal and guilt and later, the tensions of a divided community. His intimate story lends a local perspective and conveys the damage inflicted upon individuals and the fishing industry.
In the end, lengthy investigations revealed cover ups, reckless management, numerous safety violations, and a broken regulatory process. Lawmakers aligned with businesses rather than citizens, and fishermen spent nearly twenty years in litigation. Despite a massive cleanup effort, oil remains on the beaches and continues to impact marine life.
Red Light to Starboard 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 the disaster’s environmental consequences as well as failed governmental and public policy decisions, and tracks changes that, through opportunities for citizen input and oversight, offer hope for the future.
Photographs / map / index / 272 pages (2014)
2015 Spur Award for Best Western Contemporary Nonfiction, Western Writers of America
2015 Outstanding University Press Title, American Library Association
2014 Finalist, IndieFAB History and IndieFAB Ecology & Environment, Foreword Magazine
“Red Light to Starboard explores how and why the Valdez crash, a rock thrown into the ecological-social pool, rippled into an ever-widening disaster, one still impacting the local environment and inhabitants — one of them Day’s fisherman husband, whose personal narrative helps to frame and anchor her study.”—Steve King, Barnes & Noble Review, Daybook column
“A deeply human reading of an event more commonly written about in terms of its magnitude and the widespread damage… An exceptional piece of narrative history. Its lessons are many.”—David A. James, Anchorage Daily News
“Angela Day has done a meticulous job of teasing out the appalling string of lax standards, safety violations, coverups, corporate malfeasance and bureaucratic bungles that contributed to the accident in the first place and compounded the damage that remains. .”—Barbara Lloyd McMichael, The Bellingham Herald
“Day is superb at weaving together political and business conflicts pertaining to oil spills and personal stories of those who live in areas in danger of spills.”—John Senger, ForeWord Magazine
“A work of love and thorough investigative journalism, delivered with the objectivity of a seasoned analyst.”—John Senger, ForeWord Magazine
“Angela Day…. with Red Light to Starboard, her informative and highly readable account of the spill as experienced by her husband Bobby Day, a lifelong fisherman in Prince William Sound, and his family who in the 1950s homesteaded the land on which the pipeline terminal would later be built…. To her credit, the author contextualizes the Day family story within the larger history of oil development in Alaska as well as the social and economic changes in the fishing industry that even preceded the spill.”—Ross Coen, Alaska History
“Published just weeks before the 25th anniversary of the oil spill, Angela Day’s book achieves a synthesis at the convergence of several themes and experiences. …. I doubt that anybody could have written Red Light to Starboard much before the spill’s 25th anniversary. The passage of nearly a human generation of time has allowed the devastating short-term effects of the spill to be understood in a wider context.”—Dave Norton, The Polar Times
“This book was hard to put down…a wonderfully told tale, rich with characters who leap off the pages… Readers will come away with a healthy skepticism for extractive industries, their relationship to government regulators, and the costs that often are paid in the search for mineral and oil/gas wealth.”—Edward P. Weber, Ulysses Dubach Professor of Political Science, School of Public Policy at Oregon State University
“An absorbing read… a personal and immediate account of the impacts of the spill on real people in real circumstances.”—Max S. Power, author of American’s Nuclear Wastelands