Unlike many other oil spills, this one worked its way into popular culture:
- The belief at the time was that the Exxon Valdez’ ship’s master Joseph Hazelwood was drunk, leading David Letterman to make a “Top Ten List” of his excuses, one of which was “I was just trying to scrape some ice off the reef for my margarita.”
- In an episode of Futurama, the robot character Bender crashes an intergalactic tanker into a planet because he’s not drunk enough. In the world of Futurama, robots need alcohol to function properly.
- In the movie Waterworld, the bad guys’ boat was named the Exxon Valdez, and their patron saint was Hazelwood. Hazelwood even appears in the movie, in portrait form – here’s a still featuring the movie’s chief villain, The Deacon (played by Dennis Hopper), talking to the portrait:
For a little more detail about the story, here’s a July 1989 Time magazine issue: Joe’s Bad Trip.