"Renée - Out of Alaska"
© Linda Smogor , All Rights Reserved
October 1989
"REMEMBER MARS - Mars Cove Volunteers and Exxon Crude" Portfolio

Woman walking ashore through the mist

There's a little place called Mars Cove nestled among the mountains on the outer coast of the Kenai Peninsula some three hundred miles south of where the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound. It was a small, heavily oiled beach written off by Exxon as insignificant, but it captured the imagination of people from all around the world.

The Homer Area Recovery Coalition (HARC) launched a volunteer clean-up at Mars Cove in an attempt to restore the once pristine shoreline. The movement was led by two men from Homer -- Billy Day, who designed a homemade rock washer, and his friend, Benn Levine, a former paid employee for Martech (an Exxon subcontractor). Benn quit Martech in frustration after realizing that the prevailing motive of the clean-up effort was to make money. Cleaning the beaches was never a top priority for Exxon, they just made it appear that way.

I, too, saw many people cashing in on the oil spill, making more money than they probably ever have in their lives. Greed seemed to be spreading insidiously like the crude itself.

So I went to Mars to see if I could help out, to see if I could learn anything. I found a group of people there with strong convictions and big hearts; they really cared about the earth. They worked long, hard hours every day for no pay on a fouled beach nicknamed "Groucho," hauling buckets of rocks to the rock washers, cleaning them one by one and returning them to their place.

Accessible only by boat and air, about a dozen volunteers rotated in and out of Mars each week from July to November. They stayed camped there long after Exxon pulled its crews for the winter. The spirit and energy at Mars was contagious. The motives were pure.

I returned to Mars Cove twice after my initial visit in September and stayed for several days each time. I produced the photographic portfolio "REMEMBER MARS - Mars Cove Volunteers and Exxon Crude" which has been exhibited at the Pratt Museum. This is one of the photographs I made along the way.

Many thanks to my fellow "Martians" and the countless number of individuals from the Homer community who helped support the Mars Cove clean-up effort.

Linda Smogor