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Lake Peigneur: The Swirling Vortex of Doom

Article #1 • Written by Alan Bellows

Early in the morning on November 21, 1980, twelve men decided to abandon their oil drilling rig on the suspicion that it was beginning to collapse beneath them. They had been probing for oil under the floor of Lake Peigneur when their drill suddenly seized up at about 1,230 feet below the muddy surface, and they were unable free it. In their attempts to work the drill loose, which is normally fairly easy at that shallow depth, the men heard a series of loud pops, just before the rig tilted precariously towards the water.

At the time, Lake Peigneur was an unremarkable body of water near New Iberia, Louisiana. Though the freshwater lake covered 1,300 acres of land, it was only eleven feet deep. A small island there was home to a beautiful botanical park, oil wells dotted the landscape, and far beneath the lake were miles of tunnels for the Diamond Crystal salt mine.

Concluding that something had gone terribly wrong, the men on the rig cut the attached barges loose, scrambled off the rig, and moved to the shore about 300 yards away. Shortly after they abandoned the $5 million Texaco drilling platform, the crew watched in amazement as the huge platform and derrick overturned, and disappeared into a lake that was supposed to be shallow. Soon the water around that position began to turn. It was slow at first, but it steadily accelerated until it became a fast-moving whirlpool a quarter of a mile in diameter, with its center directly over the drill site.

As the whirlpool was forming on the surface, Junius Gaddison, an electrician working in the salt mines below, heard a loud, strange noise coming down the corridor. Soon he discovered the sound's source, which was rushing downhill towards him: fuel drums banging together as they were carried along the shaft by a knee-deep stream of muddy water. He quickly called in the alarm, and the mine's lights were flashed three times to signal its immediate evacuation. Many of the 50 miners working that morning, most as deep as 1,500 feet below the surface, saw the evacuation signal and began to run for the 1,300 foot level, where they could catch an elevator to the surface. However, when they reached the third level, they were blocked by deep water.

Clearly, the salt dome which contained the mine had been penetrated by the drill crew on the lake. Texaco, who had ordered the oil probe, was aware of the salt mine's presence and had planned accordingly; but somewhere a miscalculation had been made, which placed the drill site directly above one of the salt mine's 80-foot-high, 50-foot-wide upper shafts. As the freshwater poured in through the original 14-inch-wide hole, it quickly dissolved the salt away, making the hole grow bigger by the second. The water pouring into the mine also dissolved the huge salt pillars which supported the ceilings, and the shafts began to collapse.

As most of the miners headed for the surface, a maintenance foreman named Randy LaSalle drove around to the remote areas of the mine which hadn't seen the evacuation signal, and warned the miners there to evacuate. The miners whose escape was slowed by water on the third level used mine carts and diesel powered vehicles to make their way up to the 1,300 foot level, where they each waited their turn to ride the slow, 8-person elevator to the surface as the mine below them filled with water. Although it seemed to take forever to get out, all 50 miners managed to escape with their lives.

Barges being sucked into the vortex.
Barges being sucked into the vortex.

Meanwhile, up on the surface, the tremendous sucking power of the whirlpool was causing violent destruction. It swallowed another nearby drilling platform whole, as well as a barge loading dock, 70 acres of soil from Jefferson Island, trucks, trees, structures, and a parking lot. The sucking force was so strong that it reversed the flow of a 12-mile-long canal which led out to the Gulf of Mexico, and dragged 11 barges from that canal into the swirling vortex, where they disappeared into the flooded mines below. It also overtook a manned tug on the canal, which struggled against the current for as long as possible before the crew had to leap off onto the canal bank and watch as the lake consumed their boat.

After three hours, the lake was drained of its 3.5 billion gallons of water. The water from the canal, now flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, formed a 150-foot waterfall into the crater where the lake had been, filling it with salty ocean water. As the canal refilled the crater over the next two days, nine of the sunken barges popped back to the surface like corks, though the drilling rigs and tug were left entombed in the ruined salt mine.

Despite the enormous destruction of property, no human life was lost in this disaster, nor were there any serious injuries. Within two days, what had previously been an eleven-foot-deep freshwater body was replaced with a 1,300-foot-deep saltwater lake. The lake's biology was changed drastically, and it became home to many species of plants and fish which had not been there previously.

Of course numerous lawsuits were filed, and they were subsequently settled out-of-court for many millions of dollars. The owners of the Crystal Diamond salt mine received a combined $45 million in damages from Texaco and the oil drilling company, and got out of the salt mining business for good.

No official blame for the miscalculation was ever decided, because all of the evidence was sucked down the drain, but the story described here is the generally accepted theory of what caused this massive disaster.

Update 16 March 2013: Ron Davis wrote in with a little history about the drill rig in question.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 06 September 2005. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

Article design by Alan Bellows.
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77 Comments
Viking
Posted 23 October 2005 at 02:59 pm

THAT's damned interesting! I often wondered what damage occurred when the offshore rigs drill through thousands of feet of rock under the Gulf. Doesn't the water leak into the hole and go somewhere?


JustAnotherName
Posted 31 October 2005 at 08:00 pm

If they don't stop taking all the oil out of the earth as well as other countries setting off nuclear bombs under ground, the pace of Earth Quakes will carry on; the techtonic plates need that oil to make it easier to glide centimeter by centimeter year in and year out. Take that away and you leave no lubricant and nice big holes the earth decides to fill up.


hlihli
Posted 25 November 2005 at 02:25 pm

you're not serious, are you? oil deposits as lubrication for plate techtonics (sic)?


bpops
Posted 13 December 2005 at 03:13 pm

My first post on this site. I read this article and just had to comment.

I actually went to elementary school in New Ibera, LA (grew up in Abbeville, about 30mins west of New Ibera, and about 10 mins from this lake!). In fact, I took flight lessons a couple of summers ago and often flew right over it.

In elementary school, we once took a field trip to the lake (and the plantation on it). They took us out in the boat and pretended like we were back during the time that the draining occured. The boat driver just went in circles pretending like we were caught in a whirlpool, making us all sick.

Incidentally, I was almost positive it was not oil they were drilling, but rather it was a salt dome underneath the lake that simply collapsed. Or perhaps I have my stories crossed. Granted, that was 12 or 13 years ago, so my memory is a bit fuzzy.

Still an excellent and "damn interesting" story.


ivytheplant
Posted 23 December 2005 at 10:15 pm

I just broke down and bought Modern Marvels: Engineering Disasters 5 which features the Lake Peigneur disaster. Great watching that. And to "JustAnotherName:" have you EVER taken ANY sort of earth science class at all? I mean, seriously. Sure, I'm a geologist and know better, but come on. Even my 6 year old cousin knows better!

Of course, maybe that's really why the Earth is so cranky. She ain't getting enough lube from the humans sticking large...probes...into the crust...


ivytheplant
Posted 23 December 2005 at 10:18 pm

Also, the drilling team was probing for oil that often pools underneath the salt domes. The salt mines themselves are like giant salty balls that get hollowed out by the miners in horizontal and vertical shafts. The drilling team merely miscalulated where a shaft in the salt mine was and punched a hole in it, allowing water to drain through. The salt in the mine then dissolved as water hit it and everything went crazy from there.

I remember learning about it first year geology, but it wasn't until recently I had seen the footage from Modern Marvels.


klugerichie
Posted 22 January 2006 at 08:53 pm

I've been searching for video footage on the internet, but I've turned up nothing. Does anyone know where I might be able to watch this (since I'm too cheap to buy the Modern Marvels tape)?


ivytheplant
Posted 24 January 2006 at 12:07 am

I've been trying to figure out how to rip my copy from the DVD to share it with all, but I still can't figure it out. I get either errors or it just sits and does nothing. But when I do get it figured out...


godsgrandson
Posted 14 March 2006 at 05:53 am

It has to be said, I quite like the oil lubrication theory. I'm fully aware that it's rubbish (I'm a ex-science teacher), but I'm sure you could have some fun teaching impressionable kids this! JustAnotherName, I really, really hope you're joking.


Josh
Posted 27 March 2006 at 03:11 pm

Wow. that's fucking amazing.


sonburn
Posted 27 March 2006 at 03:31 pm

Looking at the Google Maps of the lake today, the island is gone for sure and the salt water source doesn't appear to be contributing any longer? Assuming the source was in the NE corner of original image. Link. Either way, truly interesting, even though this is an old post that has been recently Dugg.


m1ss1ontomars2k4
Posted 27 March 2006 at 05:56 pm

holy crap learn to use your "it's" and "its"

possessive is "its", as in "the mine's lights were flashed three times to signal _its_ immediate evacuation"

"it is" becomes "it's", as in "_it's_ hot today"


Alan Bellows
Posted 27 March 2006 at 06:27 pm

m1ss1ontomars2k4 said: "holy crap learn to use your "it's" and "its""

I know, I know... it's just an easy typo to make, and the spell checker doesn't catch it. I fixed the two erroneous usages.


phord
Posted 29 March 2006 at 12:39 pm

m1ss1ontomars2k4 said: "holy crap learn to use your "it's" and "its"

possessive is "its", as in "the mine's lights were flashed three times to signal _its_ immediate evacuation"

"it is" becomes "it's", as in "_it's_ hot today""

Holy Crap, m1ss1ontomars2k4! Learn to use all the rest of the punctuation.

Oh, there was something else I wanted to say. What was it? Let me think. Oh, yeah. "Get a life."

Thanks for the site, Alan. Interesting indeed!


ivytheplant
Posted 27 April 2006 at 11:42 pm

klugerichie said: "I've been searching for video footage on the internet, but I've turned up nothing. Does anyone know where I might be able to watch this (since I'm too cheap to buy the Modern Marvels tape)?"

If anyone is interested in some footage, I finally have some from the Modern Marvels episode. Drop me a line on ivytheplant at msn dot com.


Ruffterrain
Posted 22 May 2006 at 11:53 am

There are quite a few stories about this disaster that are wrought with inaccuracies. First a little background of where my knowledge comes from. My mom worked for Texaco for over thirty years in the New Iberia office, she was the secretary for the district engineer. She saw all correspondence that emanated from the New Iberia office since she typed 99.9% of the correspondence. That is what gave me the intimate knowledge of the "accident". But it doesn't stop there. My first cousin was one of the petroleum engineers in the same office, and believe me everyone from the janitor on up was keenly interested in the details of the event. And last but not least the drilling superintendent in charge of that rig was and is lifelong friend and fellow "Texaco brat". His dad and my mom were both employed by Texaco for 30+ years and both retired from the company in the mid eighties. So my take comes from inside Texaco which you may or may not believe to be 100% the truth. But be as it may here are a few tidbits for you to ponder.

First I vividly remember that day because the company I worked for at the time built land, offshore and drilling barge oil rigs and we were less than ten miles from the lake.

Shortly after the accident I met up with my old friend Dick, the drilling superintendent. He had made an early morning visit to the rig. While there the rig started to vibrate and rumble like something he or any of the other guys had ever experienced. He called for an immediate evacuation of the rig. He and the entire grew boarded a crew boat tied up to the rig. The boat skipper wasted no time in getting under way. Once they had cleared the rig and felt they were a safe distance from the rig they stopped to watch the rig teeters and totter and watch it disappear before their eyes. Before long they realized that they were being pulled back to the former rig location. The boat skipper gunned the engine and headed for shore, only a couple of hundred yards away. As they headed in the boats forward progress got slower and slower until they found themselves sitting on the bottom of the lake bed. As Dick said to me, “I have never seen that many men so terrified and disoriented, including him. The all promptly jumped out of the boat and ran crawled and crapped their way to the shore. There they stood in disbelief as the now incredibly large whirlpool started sucking everything in its wake.

Now for the inside Texaco take on the event. Now first of all practically all salt domes have pockets of oil surrounding the dome. Some are fairly close to the surface and likewise some are fairly deep. When an oil company decides to drill in any particular location, the likelihood of hitting a dry hole are slim and none. As you might expect a geological survey is first done to determine where, how deep and how large the oil reserve may be. This is not a guessing game because the cost to drill a well is very costly, and that is before the company ever puts the rig on location.

In this case Morton Salt was intimately involved in the site location. Morton Salt supplied maps of the labyrinth of tunnels that crisscross the salt dome. Some of these tunnels were excavated over a hundred years ago. In mining salt the tunnels can only be made so large. So when the life of tunnel reaches its end, it is closed up and left to regenerate more salt. That's right salt will continue to grow when left alone. Now some of these "closed" tunnels have be abandoned for many years. In the case of this accident the tunnel that was struck had been abandoned for umpteen years, probably somewhere around the end of the 19th century or the early 20th century. To top that off the tunnel did not show on the modern maps that Texaco used to make their calculations of where to place the rig. Whose fault? Well once the finger pointing started it apparently reached a point of no return. Being that, Texaco legal eagles determined even though they were probably not 100% responsible for the accident, fighting it would eclipse the monetary settlement finally agreed upon. As the say "Believe or Not".

I know this a lengthy comment but I didn't know how to explain it any shorter. Can I testify that all that I have written is 100% accurate? No I can't. So take it for what it is worth and make up your own minds.

P.S. "Loss of lubrication" ROTFLMAO!!!!


rp2
Posted 24 May 2006 at 12:22 pm

funny.. but how much do you want to bet most of what you know is gossip?


Filoviridae
Posted 09 June 2006 at 07:29 am

I wouldn't put much faith in what a Texaco insider says. No offense to your sources of course but the company's whole goal in the situation was CYA which makes most of any information released suspect without actual proof. If anyone is able to provide documentation from external sources...that would be something I'd consider. All in all it's still a good take and another point of view doesn't hurt. Just so long as people take it with...a grain of salt. *rimshot*


cjm051375
Posted 25 June 2006 at 01:10 pm

Alan, bpops, ruffterain...Interesting stuff posted by all of you. I am from New Iberia. I was only 5 when this happened, but have heard many stories in regards to the incident, all of which sound similiar to what you three are saying. I have been to Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Live Oak Gardens, Jefferson Island, etc. I am not sure who is to blame about the incident nor do I care. No humans were hurt in the incident and it didnt have that much of an long lasting environmental impact on the area, with the exception of the loss of acres as well as the inception of salt water into the lake. To be honest, I am not all that sure that the salt water in the lake is a bad thing. The inland lake is, as for as I know, the only one of its kind to have the sort of species that it has in it. To be quite honest, the fishing is great in the lake and it is as beautiful as ever. I fished in it just last year. Getting back to the blame game. I work for one of the majors, so I do get a bit defensive when it comes to someone saying stuff like, "I wouldnt put much faith in what Texaco insiders say", because I am pretty sure Texacos policies are as open to the media as ours are. As a matter of fact, all of the negative publicity that major oil gets from green peace activitist and other so called environmental groups is sort of ironic, considering the amount of money and effort we as major oilfield companies put into environmental conservation. We have very stringent emissions standards when producing natural gas as well as toxicity limitations on produced water. The water that goes overboard into the GoM is actually cleaner then most tap water. I can go on and on about what we do as well as other major oil companies, but I would prefer to take the time to advise Mr. Alan Bellows that he did a most excellent job with the article. I am also saving a few moments to advise him that the person that decided that they would say something about your use of its versus it's, isn't at all maticulous but is rather just an assflake. (Assflake: A person who deserves to be deemed as a crusted skin flake from someone's ass, or as dried shit that flakes off from someone's ass.) As for the tectonic plates lubrication expert, I have worked along side resevoir engineers as well as geophysicist, and have never heard something like that before. Did you hear that on Beavis and Butthead or did you just smoke so much cannibus that you thought you could slip that past everyone else because it sounded smart when you said "tectonic plates" in a sentence. I can actually picture you sitting on a couch sucking the jelly out of a donut, watching it collapse, and then looking at your stoned friend and saying I bet that is what happens when those assholes drill for oil, never even realizing that you wouldnt be able to move your vehicle out of your drive way to go get weed and donuts without us oilfield trash. Anyway, I think I got off the subject a bit venting about ignorance. I thoroughly enjoyed the article even though it had such negative comments to follow. To all have a nice day. Even you "Justanothername". If I ever decide to take up drugs as a hobby, I will make sure to look you up............lubricating tectonic plates........jesus, some people


dunno
Posted 26 June 2006 at 06:14 am

noway
Posted 10 July 2006 at 08:03 am

JustAnotherName said: "If they don't stop taking all the oil out of the earth as well as other countries setting off nuclear bombs under ground, the pace of Earth Quakes will carry on; the techtonic plates need that oil to make it easier to glide centimeter by centimeter year in and year out. Take that away and you leave no lubricant and nice big holes the earth decides to fill up."

You have got to be the most retarded commenter in Damn Interesting's history...


frenchsnake
Posted 10 July 2006 at 05:38 pm

Still, "oil lubrication in plate tectonics", s'funny to think about, isn't it? ^_^

This story is somehow terrifying (of course, I do have a fear of deep water...)


ColinJ
Posted 13 July 2006 at 11:16 am

I am currently working on making some maps for this area since we will be dredging in the lake shortly for some proposed well sampling sites. I didn't know anything about this lake and its coloful past. Because, the lake itself is a pretty boring out of the way place. The fishing in the large crater is actually really good. I wasn't around to fish in the lake before 1980 I wouldn't be able to say either way on the fishing conditions beforehand. However, now, there are some monster red snappers coming up out of that deep crater.

I will have to remind our crew to be careful when dredging this lake to lay our pipelines for sure. Although, I am sure most of them know all about since they are all locals.

Oil luberication is a very viable idea! Just kidding. IF the plates relied on oil to slide around I don't think that we would be too worried about running out anytime soon as well. Cause that would account for a ton of oil to say the least.


Ozgeo
Posted 14 July 2006 at 08:53 pm

I am a geologist in Western Australia and I heard about this incident several years ago. We are now using it as a practical example of "know where you are drilling" because several months ago one of our crews drilled through a fibre optic cable and wiped out communications for a sizeable chunk of WA - not as good as draining an entire lake but we're getting there.

Now although "JustAnotherName" has aready received the sledging they deserve I would still like to add a further explanation as to why that person deserves more.... Within the earth all pore space within the rock is filled with either water (most commonly), oil or gas. Extract one and it is replaced by another. Or you can insert more of the undesirable fluid to extract more of what you want. No worries. The earth does not require a lubricant for it to "glide" cm by cm but is rather dragged by the convecting mantle (as the current theory goes). In "JustAnotherNames'" defence I will say that many of my geology classes at uni would have been far more interesting if they had been teaching! If the plates did require oil for lubrication then the solution is easy - just replace the oil you extract with a bit of KY! Strewth - then if you needed to get overseas all you'd need is a bit of kick start and BANG - the continents would have collided and you'd be there!

With that said and stupidity aside I'd like to say to Allan Bellows that your article was very entertaining and thankyou "dunno" for providing the video.

Cheers.


Zamemee
Posted 20 October 2006 at 03:50 pm

Please excuse me if this is incorrect, but I remember watching a show on the history channel that showed railway cars being fed into the hole in an attempt to plug it. Has anyone else seen this? Or is it on the episode mentioned?


westy
Posted 18 January 2007 at 05:49 am

wow totally amazing! for all of you looking for a video i have just come across a short (5 minutes or so) video here's the link http://www.spikedhumor.com/articles/79034/Whirl_Pool_Sucks_In_Whole_Lake.html?page=1

enjoy!


Michael Pollock
Posted 06 May 2007 at 12:47 am

People sure are getting worked up over JustAnothername's misconception.

How could this have caused minimal environmental impact when the lake is now salty, I assume meaning almost none of its former freshwater species can survive there? I'd call that an enormous local impact.


Darknight
Posted 30 May 2007 at 03:42 pm

Zamemee said: "Please excuse me if this is incorrect, but I remember watching a show on the history channel that showed railway cars being fed into the hole in an attempt to plug it. Has anyone else seen this? Or is it on the episode mentioned?"

That was a similar incident that happened on the Susquahanna river in Pennsylvania. That incident happened, as I understand it, when miners dug too close to the river, and breached into the river itself. Since coal mines in the area are very extensive, and interconnected, a vast area was being flooded. Also, the shoreline, which had a rail line on it, was also being threatened. For both reasons, they chucked everything they could think of into the breach, in an effort to block it. It had little effect, and large areas of the mines were permanently flooded.


justjim1
Posted 28 September 2007 at 10:52 am

5 stars out of 5 Allan. This is probably the most damned interesting article to date. Poor JustAnothername... Will he ever be able to live this insane thinking of his down?


Emmy
Posted 28 September 2007 at 07:47 pm

Damn Interesting.

Were there plants and animals in the lake before the drainage? And, if so, were they sucked down the drain as well?


Alx_xlA
Posted 28 September 2007 at 08:47 pm

First, why didn't they use ground penetrating radar to look for tunnels?
Second, is it possible to dive down into the tunnels with SCUBA gear?
Lastly, JustAnotherName, when in doubt, don't post on a blog usually filled with intelligent, gentle and pie-loving people.


Tink
Posted 29 September 2007 at 09:01 am

JustAnotherName said: "If they don't stop taking all the oil out of the earth as well as other countries setting off nuclear bombs under ground, the pace of Earth Quakes will carry on; the techtonic plates need that oil to make it easier to glide centimeter by centimeter year in and year out. Take that away and you leave no lubricant and nice big holes the earth decides to fill up."

Now all yall been buggin Justanothername about this comment. Yall don't have to be so mean! I think this theory is cute and clever. If it wasn't for just this type of curiosity (ie:what if?) Then most of the worlds greatest discoveries would never have come about. Cut her some slack and get off your high horse. I gar-un-tee that at least of half of you will get a theory shot down on this site at least once by someone with more education, if you post an opinion often enough. We treat each poster with respect here. This is not a site where we trade insults or defamation. We laugh at each other to be sure, but hurting feelings just for the meaness of it is frowned upon in this playground. Enjoyed this DI! as much this time as the last, Alan! Hope to see ya back in form soon, thanks, from your fan Tink.


hansecke
Posted 29 September 2007 at 10:15 am

I'm a geophysicist, so I know a little bit about plate tectonics. While JustAnotherName is not exactly correct, there is a related fact that sounds - on the face of it - just as unlikely.

When plates get subducted, a thick layer of marine sediment gets pulled under as well. At the mantle boundary the plate and the sediment will be partially molten. Some of the molten material ascends to the surface and forms volcanoes. Nearly all volcanoes are created that way. Now here is the strangeness: the temperature down there is not nearly high enough to create all that lava from straight rock. Turns out the sediments contain a large amount of water in the pore space. And the water acts as a kind of accelerator for the melting. Without it, no volcanoes.

Reaching a bit, you could say that the earth is lubricated by water.

Of course, nobody has been down that far so it's all just conjecture. Not even http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=567 drilled very deep in the greater scheme of things.


HiEv
Posted 30 September 2007 at 02:37 am

Alx_xlA said: "First, why didn't they use ground penetrating radar to look for tunnels?"

Well, first of all it wasn't just underground, but also under water. Second of all, ground penetrating radar hadn't been around that long in 1980, so I don't know how common its use was or how accurate it was back then.

Alx_xlA said: "Second, is it possible to dive down into the tunnels with SCUBA gear?"

Probably, though I doubt it would be considered safe.


Anonymousx2
Posted 30 September 2007 at 06:36 am

This happened only two years ago (before I found DI), and I don't remember hearing about this anywhere. Did this appear in any newspapers or on any news programs? How about blogs?

Once again, DI brings to us great stuff not in the papers or those nearly worthless history books in my school.

Yeah, I know. This story won't ever appear in a school history book, and I don't think that it should, most likely. The story about Butler should be in history books, though, and I have never seen it anywhere else but here.


D Hall
Posted 30 September 2007 at 08:17 am

Michael Pollock said:

How could this have caused minimal environmental impact when the lake is now salty, I assume meaning almost none of its former freshwater species can survive there? I'd call that an enormous local impact."


It is all relative. I was born and raised in an area once covered by an inland sea, which went away (without any help from human action). Later that area was covered by a huge freshwater lake, which one day, broke through its shores and drained away (again without humans causing it). Now that area is covered by a large western city and one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet. Now I live in an area that has been flooded out hundreds of times over the years, and is still a nice place to live. Wildlife abounds. My house is in a city and I regularly see deer and coyotes on my way to work. I have covey of quail that reside in my back yard (they are friends with and are protected by my dogs) and on the whole life is pretty good. There is even a Red Tailed Hawk living on the street lamp over the nearest freeway exit.
So the lake changed from fresh water to salt. That is an impact, for sure. However it is pretty minimal. Freshwater species out--salt water species in. The lake is still there and it is still habitable. The point is: Life happens.


Reaper
Posted 30 September 2007 at 04:00 pm

Anonymousx2 said: This happened only two years ago (before I found DI), and I don't remember hearing about this anywhere. Did this appear in any newspapers or on any news programs? How about blogs?

The actual event occurred in 1980; the article was written 2 years ago.

On a side note, I guess this explains why my article suggestion a few months ago fell on deaf ears. The article already existed! ;)


Anonymousx2
Posted 01 October 2007 at 03:39 am

Reaper said: "The actual event occurred in 1980; the article was written 2 years ago."

Once in a while, I feel even more stupid than usual. The date was right there in the opening sentence. I'm glad that you pointed it out, and I'm thankful that you weren't sarcastic as you did it.

On the other hand, my other point still stands, as far as I know. I don't recall reading about Butler in school.


richardb
Posted 01 October 2007 at 09:25 am

After watching the Discovery channel feature posted to Youtube it seems like quite a bit of the article is copied word for word from Discovery's segment. I'm love this site and the stories they introduce me to, but original authors should be given credit. Plagiarism shouldn't be celebrated. I thank the current author for bringing the event to my attention, but the cheers he's receiving are misplaced since currently much of the article is copied word for word from the Discovery Channel piece.


J.K.
Posted 01 October 2007 at 09:54 am

I've always loved this story since I first read it here and saw it in video etc over on the History Channel. A real testament to stupidity, neglect, and overall bad judgement to say the least.

Not very nice to be ripping on that one very confused individual and nice to see Tink say something along those lines.

With all the comments I've come to appreciate at this site and the education behind some of it makes me wonder why there aren't elective hs/college courses around damn interesting facts and information from history. I mean these things should be counted as some excellent historical obscurities that deserve a bit of recognitions. Anyone up for DI 101 using their yet to be published book as the textbook/required reading for the course? :)


wargammer
Posted 01 October 2007 at 12:30 pm

JustAnotherName said: "If they don't stop taking all the oil out of the earth as well as other countries setting off nuclear bombs under ground, the pace of Earth Quakes will carry on; the techtonic plates need that oil to make it easier to glide centimeter by centimeter year in and year out. Take that away and you leave no lubricant and nice big holes the earth decides to fill up."

Oil is not a fossil fuel
if comes from below, the Earth's mantel is the source of methane that turns into oil and black coal.


Alan Bellows
Posted 01 October 2007 at 01:16 pm

richardb said: "After watching the Discovery channel feature posted to Youtube it seems like quite a bit of the article is copied word for word from Discovery's segment. I'm love this site and the stories they introduce me to, but original authors should be given credit. Plagiarism shouldn't be celebrated. I thank the current author for bringing the event to my attention, but the cheers he's receiving are misplaced since currently much of the article is copied word for word from the Discovery Channel piece."

I'm sorry, but I must leap to my own defense here since plagiarism is such a serious charge to place upon a writer. Your nasty accusation is completely untrue. I am not even aware of any Discovery Channel piece about this incident... if you're referring to the History Channel episode, perhaps you should re-watch it and specifically identify the parts that are copied word-for-word. I'm pretty sure you won't find any.


Dani
Posted 02 October 2007 at 03:40 am

Alan Bellows said: "I'm sorry, but I must leap to my own defense here since plagiarism is such a serious charge to place upon a writer. Your nasty accusation is completely untrue. I am not even aware of any Discovery Channel piece about this incident… if you're referring to the History Channel episode, perhaps you should re-watch it and specifically identify the parts that are copied word-for-word. I'm pretty sure you won't find any."

In his defense, I felt the same way when I watched the clip. I couldn't believe that you would just copy verbatim from the History Channel, so I looked back to find the passages that were from the video. I couldn't find them. I don't know why some of the portions of the video seemed SO familiar, but it did.

Of course, you're right. Plagiarism is a very serious charge, and shouldn't be made lightly.


wh44
Posted 02 October 2007 at 03:49 am

Re: accusations of plagiarism
Given that Alan wrote this in 2005 and it has been public since, if there are passages that are the same between History Channel and this article, I would still check the copyright date and first airing of the documentary before I decided who to charge with plagiarism.
I tried a few quick googles, but wasn't able to find the copyright date or first airing for the History Channel documentary, only that it aired this year. :-( Perhaps somebody else knows where to find this information?


Hoekstes
Posted 02 October 2007 at 07:39 am

Plagiarism. I wonder who came up with that idea. (Please no wikipedia links people). My thoughts are mine - even if I share them with the world. If someone repeats them, I'll sue them. Why do you share them then? It's the same with patent laws. Why should a good idea be constricted to one person/organisation/General Motors if it could be applied and improved by all. It's all a big money making scheme if you ask me.
By the way, on a lighter less intellectual note, Alan, did you have any funny nicknames at school. Your name just begs for them. Anal Below Blows comes to mind. Haha!


sulkykid
Posted 02 October 2007 at 08:34 am

wargammer said: "Oil is not a fossil fuel
if comes from below, the Earth's mantel is the source of methane that turns into oil and black coal."

Coal is definitely fossil fuel. I have heard the replenishing oil theory before. It sounds crackpot to me. (Although I have not researched it deeply.)


sid
Posted 02 October 2007 at 10:47 am

Hoekstes said: "Plagiarism. I wonder who came up with that idea. (Please no wikipedia links people). My thoughts are mine - even if I share them with the world. If someone repeats them, I'll sue them. Why do you share them then? It's the same with patent laws. Why should a good idea be constricted to one person/organisation/General Motors if it could be applied and improved by all. It's all a big money making scheme if you ask me."

Now this has to be a joke. You cannot possibly be serious that you see no problem with, for example, a company/individual dedicating years of research and millions/billions/trillions of dollars into developing a new idea/product, then having some idiot who never had a bright idea in his life simply taking that idea/product and marketing it for his own profit. Of course he could sell it for far less than those who developed it, because he would not have to recoup the money spent on development/research. Should anyone be able to reproduce the writings of any author, word-for-word, then sell the product as his own? The person who came up with plagiarism probably had his ideas stolen and sold as the product of somebody else.


Radiatidon
Posted 02 October 2007 at 03:28 pm

wh44 said: "I tried a few quick googles, but wasn't able to find the copyright date or first airing for the History Channel documentary, only that it aired this year. :-( Perhaps somebody else knows where to find this information?"

wh44, the episode in question was first aired on December 30, 2003. Season 9 in Episode 66. It is listed on the History Channel’s website as ”Modern Marvels: Engineering Disasters 5.

;)


HiEv
Posted 03 October 2007 at 02:47 am

Hoekstes said: "Plagiarism. I wonder who came up with that idea. (Please no wikipedia links people). My thoughts are mine - even if I share them with the world. If someone repeats them, I'll sue them. Why do you share them then? It's the same with patent laws. Why should a good idea be constricted to one person/organisation/General Motors if it could be applied and improved by all. It's all a big money making scheme if you ask me."

Yeah, heaven forbid someone should be paid for contributing to the betterment of humanity. (eyeroll)

Seriously, this isn't just for repeating a "thought," plagiarism is some lazy person taking credit for someone else's work. Stealing something that was a product of someone else's intellect and effort is not something that should be rewarded, especially since it has a discouraging effect on innovation. Just imagine if one of your coworkers took credit for your work at your job. Would you think that was fair? It's not much different with plagiarism. (Just to be clear, there has been zero hard evidence of any plagiarism regarding this article.)

Furthermore, patents and copyright do expire (though the latter now takes longer than I believe is reasonable.) Patents don't prevent innovation anyways, they just help make sure that the person who came up with the original concept and put the effort into it won't have it used by others without proper compensation for that effort. What's wrong with that?

Can patents be abused? Sure, but I have yet to hear of another system that doesn't create more opportunity for abuse. If you think you can come up with a better system, let's hear it, but it's honest work that should be rewarded, not lazy copying.

Hoekstes said: "By the way, on a lighter less intellectual note, Alan, did you have any funny nicknames at school. Your name just begs for them. Anal Below Blows comes to mind. Haha!"

Don't quit your day job. A comedian you are not.


Anonymousx2
Posted 03 October 2007 at 04:29 am

"By the way, on a lighter less intellectual note, Alan, did you have any funny nicknames at school. Your name just begs for them. Haha!"

Your comment is far below the usual intellectual standards of this site's contributors. If you cannot behave yourself in a civilized manner, please don't post here again.


ren
Posted 08 October 2007 at 10:14 am

Alan Bellows said: "I'm sorry, but I must leap to my own defense here since plagiarism is such a serious charge to place upon a writer. Your nasty accusation is completely untrue. I am not even aware of any Discovery Channel piece about this incident… if you're referring to the History Channel episode, perhaps you should re-watch it and specifically identify the parts that are copied word-for-word. I'm pretty sure you won't find any."

I did exactly that. As I listened segment by segment and compared it to the text of the article, I could find no instance of plagiarism. My guess is that since the article and the clip both tell the story using the same chronological narrative, the accuser got a little too excited.

Hoekstes said: " Why should a good idea be constricted to one person/organisation/General Motors if it could be applied and improved by all. It's all a big money making scheme if you ask me."

Imagine that . . .


2Tense
Posted 08 October 2007 at 02:23 pm

I read something similar to this on BBCnews about a lake in Russia.
It had disapeared over night. One of the ladies from the town thought it was the states (gotta love the effectiveness of propaganda).
If my memory serves correctly, its turns out that there was a cave (hole) underneath the lake and it had cracked or deteriorated, either way, the water all seeped into this "hole" and is still there, but something like 5000 m (random number) underneath it original spot.
Makes you kinda wonder what we have down there... that and all those underground lake stories too.


Silverhill
Posted 09 October 2007 at 02:42 pm

wargammer said: "Oil is not a fossil fuel
it comes from below, the Earth's mantle is the source of methane that turns into oil and black coal."
Explain, then, the fossil vegetation that can be found in coal.


gerwitz
Posted 10 October 2007 at 07:27 pm

The 2nd to last paragraph incorrectly refers to Diamond Crystal as Crystal Diamond.


Anonymousx2
Posted 17 October 2007 at 04:16 am

Last comment?


Michael Pollock
Posted 04 November 2007 at 01:39 am

D Hall said: "It is all relative. I was born and raised in an area once covered by an inland sea, which went away (without any help from human action). Later that area was covered by a huge freshwater lake, which one day, broke through its shores and drained away (again without humans causing it). Now that area is covered by a large western city and one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet. Now I live in an area that has been flooded out hundreds of times over the years, and is still a nice place to live. Wildlife abounds. My house is in a city and I regularly see deer and coyotes on my way to work. I have covey of quail that reside in my back yard (they are friends with and are protected by my dogs) and on the whole life is pretty good. There is even a Red Tailed Hawk living on the street lamp over the nearest freeway exit.
So the lake changed from fresh water to salt. That is an impact, for sure. However it is pretty minimal. Freshwater species out–salt water species in. The lake is still there and it is still habitable. The point is: Life happens."

Change happens, but we were not responsible for the changes you mention. The Lake doesn't seem to have been very unique, and it supports a new set of wildlife now. But it would have been a disaster if there were rare or totally unique species living in it. What happened was an accident, but it would have been our fault and our loss if something was forever because of one company's mistake.


ciper
Posted 09 November 2007 at 03:11 pm

Here is the History Channel video of the mentioned disaster http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ReFr_8QRGk


Zefiro
Posted 28 November 2007 at 10:16 am

Really Damn Interesting

As for the video and text comparison: the text and the video both told the same story, but a bit differently, with different aspects highlighted. I did notice, however, some different numbers (50 vs 55 mine workers, 3.5 vs. 2.5, some depth statements) and also had the "familiar" feeling at the end of the video. Being curious, I checked what has caused it, and it came down to two sentences which had different wording, but caused the same mental image for me:

video: "When the water pressure equalized, nine of the eleven sunk barges popped up like corks in a bath tub"
text: "As the canal refilled the crater over the next two days, nine of the sunken barges popped back to the surface like corks"

video: "The cause of the desaster was never officially determined, since all the evidence was at the bottom of a 1500 foot water-filled salt mine"
text: "No official blame for the miscalculation was ever decided, because all of the evidence was sucked down the drain"


kittykactus
Posted 22 December 2007 at 04:34 pm

DI! Thrilling!
Amazing how nobody got hurt. What a great story.
HOLY CRAP we have some stupid people on here.


Crkqueen
Posted 22 February 2008 at 02:46 pm

Fantastic story, and a great example of mankind's impact on the earth, good and bad. Since we all have to live here( on Earth) for the time being, things like this will happen until we find another planet to reap resources from... just a thought for your consideration.


Watcher
Posted 29 February 2008 at 12:17 pm

J.K. said: "With all the comments I've come to appreciate at this site and the education behind some of it makes me wonder why there aren't elective hs/college courses around damn interesting facts and information from history. I mean these things should be counted as some excellent historical obscurities that deserve a bit of recognitions. Anyone up for DI 101 using their yet to be published book as the textbook/required reading for the course? :)"

This is an interesting idea and somewhat surprising that no one picked up on it. J.K I think became a little self conscious towards the end which is presumably why there's a little smiley tacked on to it but I really think it has merit. Any college presidents reading?


Anthropositor
Posted 08 April 2008 at 10:37 pm

To me, the institutional nature of "upper" education is the Achilles Heel. We teach what has been well established. We teach formulaic ways of thought. Volumes of information. We cram it into these young people like we were force-feeding a pate de fois gras goose.

There is no thought without a felt need. When we have the need to learn language, we learn with great facility. When this need is most pronounced, from birth up to about six or seven years old, most of us could learn several languages with great rapidity and skill. Yet we wait all the way to the High School and college level to teach a second language.

There is no Curiosity 101 in our colleges. No classes in Creative Self-Reliance. Why not a Problem Solving For Real Life course?

In a Damn Interesting 101 course, what would the lesson plan be? In what way would the instructor bring coherence and purpose to the study? Hey! We could try it right here in this old barn. Get a handful of the brighter bulbs to work out the goals, means, and objective measures of success.


Since804
Posted 30 June 2008 at 01:17 am

facepalm.jpg


VanBurren
Posted 07 August 2008 at 04:00 pm

I'd pay to take a DI 101 course! Sign me up! Just discovered this site ---- absolutely fascinating!! Sorry-Damn Interesting:)


RockySquirrel
Posted 09 August 2008 at 11:58 am

And they just aired this episode on Modern Marvels yesterday! Which prompted me to look up info about it so I could share the story (correctly!) with a 12 year-old who comes with his dad (he takes care of my lawn, wonderful man!) every weekend. Anyway, he's really interested in "rocks"! And, specifically, salt! I thought this would be a good story to keep his curiosity piqued! I love it!

And the banter here is great! I'll certainly make sure I've got my "ducks in a row" before I through any tidbits out there!

:)


NikolaT
Posted 01 February 2009 at 01:17 pm

A friend put me onto this site. The Disappearing Lake story was terrific. Also, some readers may be interested in other real-life tales of engineering/other technical goof-ups. Take a look at the "Calamities" column in the Design News magazine. Get on their website at designnews.com, and check the magazine's archives as well as the current issue.


pilot28
Posted 15 February 2009 at 09:08 am

Wow! this brings back so many memories. I was a Seaplane Pilot for Paul Fournet Air Service when this accident happened. I was at that rig early on the morning of the accident, the company man made us leave the rig because they knew something was wrong. Later that day I flew the news crews around the lake to get footage for local and national news. All of the footage used for the documentary was shot from my seaplane. I remember being in awe as I watched this huge whirlpool swallow up everything in sight, barges, the rig, land. I can still see the huge waterfall in my mind. I could visibly see the current flowing backwards up the Delcambre canal. I just visited Jefferson Island about a month ago, the first time since the accident, it really brought back memories.


Mirage_GSM
Posted 18 March 2009 at 07:03 am

I wonder how it was possible for the water to flow back into the lake from the Gulf of Mexico...
I looked up Lake Peigneur on Google Maps an it seems like it's about 15 kilometers from the lake to the Gulf.
If the lake was originally only eleven feet deep, that would translate into an elevation of less than 5 cm per km, even if the canal was as deep as the deepest part of the lake.
The lake can't be below sealevel, or the water would have been flowing towards it all the time.


Rodger Wrighthead
Posted 28 July 2009 at 02:46 am

Very rarely do I take time out to point out peoples shortcomings; everyone has them at one point or another. But "Tectonic Lube".
Holy Jebus that made me laugh.
(There is a slight chance that JustAnotherName is more 'Troll' than 'less informed' with a comment like that)

Although hansecke tried to save JustAnotherNames shame (or add to his Trollastic genius), is this concept completely disproven? If anyone can conjure up some information as to whether the existence of "Tectonic Lube" is indeed real (i.e. is there a substance that is more prone in reducing or preventing the buildup of energy in tectonic plates/prevent or reduce slipstick?) I would find that Damn Interesting...


Rodger Wrighthead
Posted 28 July 2009 at 02:52 am

P.s. Case in point: I'm pretty sure there is no substance on earth that can "prevent" earthquakes... shortcoming affect everyone!


IowaMechE
Posted 28 July 2009 at 01:14 pm

Mirage_GSM said: "I wonder how it was possible for the water to flow back into the lake from the Gulf of Mexico…I looked up Lake Peigneur on Google Maps an it seems like it’s about 15 kilometers from the lake to the Gulf.If the lake was originally only eleven feet deep, that would translate into an elevation of less than 5 cm per km, even if the canal was as deep as the deepest part of the lake.The lake can’t be below sealevel, or the water would have been flowing towards it all the time."

All of the information speaks of the 'sucking power' of the votex created. While this is the appearance of what happened, the 'sucking' was actually simply the water draining out of the lake into the salt mine below. While the water was draining, the floor of the lake around the original 14" hole drilled by the oil drill was continually eroded away into an ever increasing crevasse under the vortex. eventually the edge of this hole was close enough to the canal that water started flowing down the hole from the canal and effectively attempting to drain the Gulf of Mexico into the salt mine through the canal. The surface of the lake didn't have to be below the flow line of the canal, but the bottom of it (which was constantly getting deeper) did. There is mention of a 150 foot water fall in some of the information, this would have been water dropping out of the bottom of the canal into the depths of the giant hole created as the lake drained and eroded the lake floor away.

Once the mine was full and the lake level reached that of the GoM, the flow stopped. The lake was 1300 acres and had an average depth of 6 feet (max depth of 11 feet.) That caculates to 2,540,000,000 gallons running down the drain into the mine (to drain the lake) and then that much more PLUS the volume of the mine not filled by the lake, running into it from the GoM.... that's a LOT of water!


mizerock
Posted 24 April 2013 at 02:53 pm

It's generally accepted now, in 2013, that fracking causes earthquakes, via the pumping of wastewater into the ground. That doesn't really match up with the process that justanothername was describing ... but I'd like to think he was a just a slightly confused time traveler sent back to warn 2005 about fracking.


shstrang98
Posted 15 September 2013 at 04:52 pm

I remember hearing about this on the radio when it happened. I was trying to paint a pic in my 13 yr old mind of the event and it so darn weird to imagine. It sounded like a giant bathtub had drained and basically that's what it was. It wasn't until the Modern Marvels Engineering Screw-ups episode that I actually saw footage of it.

Another odd event that was almost as cool happened with the Chicago river back in the early 90's.
Check it out.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_flood


drew nabors
Posted 12 January 2014 at 01:55 pm

Lake Alachua near Gainesville FL vanished overnight. A sinkhole formed at the deepest point and drained the entire area now known as Panel's Prairie. Driving across this African Savannah in central Florida is very eerie at night.

Go Gators!


Roy Everett
Posted 27 February 2014 at 11:17 am

Michael Pollock said: "People sure are getting worked up over JustAnothername's misconception.

How could this have caused minimal environmental impact when the lake is now salty, I assume meaning almost none of its former freshwater species can survive there? I'd call that an enormous local impact."

It is a misconception that somehow "normality" is a static environment. Nature is full of high-local-impact incidents which cumulative totally change the world about us. Where I am typing this from was at one stage under a thousand feet of ice some tens of thousands of years ago. In a few decades it will be at the bottom of the sea, a victim of coastal erosion in the form of relentless pounding of the waves resulting in river diversion and ever-shifting shingle and mud and river courses, just like has happened over the last few thousand years.

Nature is a wonderfully dynamic enviroment.


Bill Wilson
Posted 27 May 2014 at 06:24 pm

I was doing some remodeling for a retired independent operator when that happened. My customer made the same comments found in Ruffterrian's post about maps of old salt mines and closing off worked out shafts. He figured the driller's liability insurance carrier would just pay the claims and move on since the loss would be quickly recouped due to the drilling boom going on at the time.

The Mississippi River used to empty into the Gulf north of Houston. As it's channel silted up the river flow moved into a deeper distributary to the east. Those ended by Mississippi so would shift back to the west. It was starting to shift west again thru the old channel which is the Achafalaya River in the 40's so the ACoE built a dam to control the flow into it. That cut off the floods which brought silt that kept raising the land level and replenished what was lost thru erosion by the Gulf waves. That region is now dropping as the water below is being squeezed out with no soil added to compensate for it's lost with the coast moving inland. The silt is should receive has been extending the freak finger of a delta into the Gulf. It started after levees were built along the river to control flooding. Mark Twain commented on that, saying it would eventually resemble a fishing pole stretching out to touch Mexico.
In 1971 a major flood event on the Mississippi nearly washed out the Monganza Dam. If that happened then the Achafalaya River would've become the new lower channel to the gulf and the old one would've become a muddy shallow swamp too expensive to keep dredged for barge traffic. That would've put a major hurt to our nation's economy for quite some time as they scrambled to build new rail lines, roads and port facilities


gregg
Posted 23 August 2014 at 11:43 am

Viking said: "THAT's damned interesting! I often wondered what damage occurred when the offshore rigs drill through thousands of feet of rock under the Gulf. Doesn't the water leak into the hole and go somewhere?"

What that did is fill that underground salt dome with water and all of the other debris depending on if that dome still had an active connection to the salt layer beneath will determine how much water goes down into the hole. As explained, the water dissolves the salt. It is the layer of salt that holds the water because of the sediment and mud and clay. That makes for a dangerous situation. That is the layer of earth that is holding you up. You don't drill through rock, you drill through mud and clay in the Bayou until you reach the salt layer. You could say this place is the Grand Canyon filled with mud. How deep is the Gulf of Mexico? The river flowing to the Gulf went in reverse drawing the saltwater in and that could have contributed to hurricane Katrina in 2013.


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