expensive mistakes

How To Drain A Lake

This is Lake Peigneur. It looks serene and like any of the other lakes that dot the landscape of southern Louisiana. It was, however, the scene of a spectacular engineering snafu on November 20, 1980. That’s the day that, according to the best guess, a Texaco drilling rig miscalculated where they should be drilling and pierced the roof of the Diamond Chrystal Salt Company salt mine, causing a huge vortex and draining the lake into the salt mine. The Delcambre Canal, which normally flows from Lake Peigneur to Vermillion Bay began flowing backwards, filling Lake Peigneur with salt water and temporarily creating a 150 ft. waterfall, the largest in Louisiana.

Don’t take my word for it. Hit the jump for a video from Discovery Channel’s “Engineering Disasters” about this bizarre event. And remember to check and recheck your work. A small error can have major repercussions.

[youtube width=”640″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddlrGkeOzsI[/youtube]

[Image Credit: Ryan Cheung]

  • Deartháir

    Measure once, cut twice, that's my motto! Oops, cut three times. Shit, start over, cut again.

  • Number_Six

    Amazing. Another one of these drilling disasters happened a few years ago in Indonesia. If you gewgulate "Indonesia mud volcano" you'll get the story behind this:
    <img src="http://cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/hires/2008/lusimudvolca.jpg&quot; />

    • CaptianNemo2001

      Its still on going… And the Indonesians are pissed… It is after all, an island with limited useable space.

  • The Professor

    That's a great story. It must have been scary as hell for those guys down in the mine. I wonder if Texaco ever paid any damages? It doesn't sound like it.

    • The other articles I read said that no damages were ever paid because it could never be proven what actually went wrong. It's generally believed that Texaco screwed the pooch, since the salt mine roof is believed to have been strong. However, any evidence is buried inside the salt mine now.

      It is pretty amazing that there were 55 men in the mine and they all got out safely. I guess we should listen to our safety people.

      • We had this in one of my Mechanical Engineering classes, a whole class devoted to proving that no matter how big the disaster is, it's never the engineer's fault.

        I haven't the time to watch the video, but IIRC the big problem was the salt mine was stingy with its data on where the extents of the mine lay, and maybe the oil company had a vague or out of date map. Maybe there's a lot of cloak and dagger shenanigans in the salt mine world. Seemed like the oil company was like, "Okay, we're gonna drill here, okay? Okay? Drillin' pretty deep RIGHT HERE. Speak now or forever ohshit."

  • jeepjeff

    That was amazing. I feel safe in having a "that's soooo cool" reaction because the miners all got out alive (which is impressive). Drained it like a bathtub. From Hell. 1400' of water is a lot of pressure, I'm not surprised that it turned a small hole into a giant gaping one. Eastern Washington's geology just became a lot more believable.

    As a counterpoint it is also possible to destructively drain a lake through a feat incredible engineering: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouncing_bomb

    • CaptianNemo2001

      Ahh the bouncing bomb. Arguably one of my most favorite creations after the XF-12.

      Need a dam removed?
      No problem.