PS 1 - We promise, this is our last missive from Cordova. We are leaving, but we want to share with you this nugget - the airport doesn’t have a cafeteria or a news and t-shirt kiosk. But it has a give away book shelf. If you find something, take it and if you can, donate a dollar. What a concept! Debbie found “The Street Lawyer” by John Grisham.
Post Script — leaving Cordova not so easy. Our flight out is cancelled due to weather. Our hotel clerk (whom we’ve had to call back to work after-hours) says the ferry isn’t running either. So with NO ROAD, no flight and no boat — we will spend another night on the harbor. (Debbie Elliott, @nprdebelliott; Marisa Penaloza, @MPenalozaNPR)
Downtown Cordova, Alaska. We leave a town forever changed by the oil spill, and uncertain when or if the lingering effects will ever end. But it’s a town of resilient folk who long ago decided to make the best of what they’ve been dealt. (Marisa Penaloza, @MPenalozaNPR; Debbie Elliott, @nprdebelliott)
You see this “No Road” slogan all over town — on bumpers and t-shirts. It’s the locals way of affirming their remote and somewhat isolated status. There are no roads linking Cordova to the rest of Alaska. The only way in is by air or water. And the town lives or dies by the water. That’s why the Exxon-Valdez spill dealt such a devastating blow — one that still reverberates today, 25 years later. (Debbie Elliott, @nprdebelliott)
Scientist Scott Pegau took us around the harbor to look for herring and we were lucky to spot some young ones. The herring population was hugely affected by the oil spill and though we were able to see some swimming near the harbor, the herring has never recovered in numbers needed to be commercially fished again in the Prince William Sound.
Cute or what? We’ve had conversations with many people during our visit here. And many believe that one of the reasons people around the nation, and the world, had such a visceral reaction to the spill was, of course, due to the amount of oil released in such pristine waters, but also because Alaska is home to sea otters. Pictures of fully oiled otters flew around the world almost instantly. Today the population has fully recovered to pre-spill numbers
The Exxon Shame Pole tells the story of the oil spill as experienced by Mike Webber, a local fisherman - from environmental disaster and economic loss to corporate greed and the travails of the judicial system. It’s currently on display at the Ilanka Cultural Center in Cordova.
The Alaskan Hotel and Bar on Cordova’s main street, which still feels like a frontier town. Cordova was a bustling copper mining outpost in the early 1900s. Now fishing is the main industry. (Debbie Elliott, @nprdebelliott)