From the Prologue to the book Renewal at The Place of Black Tears published by Visual World Impression, 2012…

“THE PLACE OF BLACK TEARS is a permanent shrine that is always changing. Every few moments, small bursts of oil that have been locked in darkness for more than seven decades suddenly escape from the fuel tanks of the sunken hull of the USS Arizona. Like spirits silently ascending from the past, these “black tears” quietly surface to spread across the water. There swirled by the breeze and tide, they move in a rhythmic dance choreographed by the natural conditions of the day.

Pearl Harbor survivors were the first to use the expression “black tears”, as well as “tears of the Arizona”. These oil droplets can be particularly evocative of what has happened since the 1941 attack. As Zenji Abe, a former Japanese dive-bomber pilot at Pearl Harbor observed: “When I visited the Memorial…, I saw oil droplets bubble to the surface of Pearl Harbor above the Arizona, which remain underwater. They moved my heart, as they are like the grief or grudge of the 1,177 people killed on the ship.”

Questions about the oil are the subject most frequently asked by visitors of the National Park Service interpreters at Pearl Harbor.

View this extraordinary video of the oil rising from the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor:
video image link
Estimated amounts of oil:
  • 1.5 million gallons in tanks on December 7, 1941
  • 1/3 (500,000 gallons) destroyed the day of the attack
  • 1/3 (500,000 gallons) lost in the next 2 ½ days
  • 1/3 (500,000 gallons) estimated remainder on December 10, 1941
  • Initial leakage: 2 quarts per day
  • Current leakage: 8 to 9 quarts per day

How long will the oil continue to leak?

Small amounts of oil will continue leak for several more generations. There is an urban legend that the oil leak will stop when the last Pearl Harbor survivor dies.

USS Arizona BB 39

Built: 1915 in the Brooklyn Shipyard

Commissioned: 1916