Spurred to action by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, this tour-boat captain made a commitment to protect Prince William Sound.

By Susan Haynes
December 05, 2006
Courtesy of Stan Stephens Cruises

When Stan Stephens fell asleep March 23, 1989, in Valdez,Alaska, he imagined waking to an ordinary morning. Instead, thetour-boat captain spent the Good Friday holiday hauling oil-companyofficials to the hemorrhaging tanker Exxon Valdez. They witnessed a fiasco: 11 million gallons ofcrude oil wicking through the pristine Prince William Soundwilderness.

By September, Valdez residents had formed the Regional Citizens'Advisory Council (RCAC). Now 72, Stan is serving one of many termsas its president. Guided by his steady voice and dedication, RCACworks to keep the Alyeska oil conglomerate investing in spillprotections: "Now every tanker shipping out of here has a doublehull and two engines, and it's escorted by two tugs," Stan says ofkey changes.

Industry temptations to cut costs, coupled with frequent oilspills in other waters around the globe, keep Stan and the RCACeagle-eyed. "We're just citizens who care about where we live,"Stan says. "We want to maintain safety in Prince William Sound, andwe're on a world watch. Right now we're communicating withcitizen-based groups on Puget Sound, where a lot of crude oilpasses through. They need protection."

"But we're not negative," he adds. "We work with the oilindustry for solutions on moving natural resources in the rightway." That's especially crucial because "once you spill, you won'tever fully clean it up," he says.

Known to locals as the "Keeper of the Sound," Stan calls PrinceWilliam Sound the most beautiful place in the world. Every year heand his company sail 16,000 to 22,000 day-trippers into the scenicspectacle, and he exudes quiet confidence that it will remain thus."This is probably the safest harbor for moving oil on the waterthat exists anywhere today," he says.

For more on oil-spill response, visit response.restoration.noaa.gov.For more on Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises(May-September), visit stanstephenscruises.com.