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Santa Barbara Oil Spill

On January 28, workers on Union Oil's Platform A in the Dos Cuadras Offshore Oil Field off the coast of Southern California were pulling a drilling tube out of one of the wells to replace a drill bit when disaster struck.

The pressure differential created by removing the tube was not adequately compensated for by pumping mud back down into the 3,500-ft-deep well, causing a drastic buildup of pressure and, quickly thereafter, a blowout. Natural gas, oil, and mud shot up the well and into the ocean. The pressure also caused breaks in the ocean floor surrounding the well, from which more gas and oil escaped.

The blowout caused an oil spill
that lasted 10 days and gushed 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil into the channel and onto the beaches of Santa Barbara County.

The spill fouled the Southern California coastlinbe from Goleta to the Rincon and all four of the northern Channel Islands. Upwards of 10,000 birds as well as fish, sea lions, and other marine life were killed in the ecological disaster.

Many have viewed the disaster as a key event in the emergence of the modern environmental movement.

"The blowout was the spark that brought the environmental issue to the nation's attention," said Arent Schuyler, an environmental studies lecturer at the University of California at Santa Barbara in a 1989 interview with the Los Angeles Times.

"People could see very vividly that their communities could bear the brunt of industrial accidents. They began forming environmental groups to protect their communities and started fighting for legislation to protect the environment."

 Black Tide
Black Tide
The Santa Barbara Oil Spill and Its Consequences
by Robert Olney Easton

Delacorte Press, 1972

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