Earlier Oil Spill Disaster of Yucatan- The Deep Water Horizon as Compared to 1979’s Ixtoc 1 disaster in Yucatan in the State of Campeche
A earlier oil spill disaster took place off the water of Yucatan and Campeche in 1979. On June 3, 1979, we were packing for our summer vacation with my In-laws in Mexico. It was an uneventful day in the news. It was not until we arrived in Yucatan that my Father in Law mentioned the Ixtoc 1 and he was amazed, as well as I was, that there had been nothing in the US news about the Ixtoc 1 blowing up.
Similar Oil Spill Disaster to BP Oil Spill
The Ixtoc 1 was about 70 Kilometers off the coast of
on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Bahia/ Bay of Campeche and about 600 miles south of the coast of Texas. The exploration well was in 162 feet of water and experienced a blowout and eventually sank.
My Father in Law had a planned business trip to Ciudad del Carmen that was the main city that serviced the rigs in the Gulf and their crew and he asked if I wanted to go. I jumped at the chance.
Crossing on the Ferry of Ciudad del Carmen
I remember the day well. We had to take a ferry across to the island and it was probably the hottest weather I have ever experienced. The city was pack full of oil related trucks and personnel. The hotels were full and so were the restaurants.
A client of my Father in Law mentioned that he had taken a helicopter ride out to see the disaster and we decided to do the same but all of the helicopters were occupied and unavailable. We finished our business on the island and headed to the ferry.
The line was long and it was the heat of the day. We finally got the VW van onto the ferry and started the 5 mile ride to the mainland. Upon arrival I couldn’t take the heat anymore and dove off the ferry and swam to shore. Little did I know that these were shark infested waters. That same ferry sank the following year in the middle of the crossing with no survivors. The sadly only a few bodies were found.
More Problems Stopping the Oil Spill Disaster
After the Ixtoc 1 sank it compounded PEMEX’s difficulties with capping the well due to debris and it took divers and submersibles up to 10 months to cap and stop the leak with estimates ranging from 150 million gallons and up to 3 times that amount spewed into the gulf. Since the well was in only 160 feet of water the well was much more accessible than the 5000 feet of the Deep Water Horizon.
What did PEMEX do to Resolve the Oil Problem?
Mexico’s PEMEX drilled two relief wells to lower the pressure of the blow out, as is currently being drilled at the Deep Water Horizon site, however the oil flowed for 3 more months following the completion of the relief wells. Much hope is that this will work on the Deep Water Horizon site but may not relieve the problem.
How did they Clean the Oil Spill Disaster?
PEMEX sprayed chemical dispersant on the 1,100 square miles of oil slick but oil washed ashore along the entire Gulf of Mexico from Texas to the northern shores of Yucatan.
Texas utilized countermeasures to protect the bays and lagoons formed by the barrier Islands but the arrival of oil to the barrier island beaches occurred when the oil arrived two months later and skimmers and booms were used in attempt to protect its shore.
Although a great effort was made to protect marine life such as the sea turtles, little to this day is known about the amount of oil that sank to the bottom and its effect on sea life and especially bottom dwellers such as crabs, the octopus, lobster and the like. They continue to test marine life and claim that they are clear of any effects after 31 years.
As a side note, for a couple of years later we were still getting stains on our swim suits if we sat in the sand at the water’s edge even though we had dug up and burned the tar soaked sand that occurred along the beach.