On this tiny piece of real estate in Prince William Sound, gooey crude oil from the nation's worst oil spill is puddled ankle-deep in some places.
Beaches are slathered with it, and a black line across rocky outcroppings marks the reach of high tide and the border between life and death.With Alaska's brief summer approaching, Exxon is faced with the task of cleaning the shoreline here and in dozens of other places before mid-September and the first signs of winter.
The company must clean about 300 miles of remote and rugged beaches and shoreline within 150 days.
"It's going to be very, very tough," said Coast Guard Adm. Paul Yost, who is heading the operations at President Bush's direction.
Exxon this weekend handed Yost a shoreline cleanup plan he had demanded, and on Sunday the company assembled officials of state and federal agencies and the news media for a technological show and tell on a heavily oiled beach here.
For hours in a cold drizzle on 75 yards of gravel beach, Exxon displayed techniques for removing oil. They included things like vacuums and a $3,000 gun capable of spewing 2 1/2 gallons of steaming hot water a minute, an environmentally risky method because it sterilizes the beach.
"Different combinations of these will be necessary in different situations," said Bob Castle, a San Francisco-based Exxon consultant.
Landing craft hauling heavy equipment butted up to greasy rocks on the normally quiet beach. A small skimmer slurped up oil in an area surrounded by bright yellow booms. Heavy clouds drooped almost to the water, obscuring nearby mountains.
As visitors trooped back and forth, a dead, oil-soaked bird was found lodged in sharp oily rocks.