Swirling Vortex of Doom

Worth posting for the title alone.

Damn Interesting: 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.

2 thoughts on “Swirling Vortex of Doom”

  1. Am I missing something? They were drilling above a mine – what did they think was going to happen?

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