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Lakeview Gusher of 1910 Bigger, Not Worse, Than BP Oil Spill

By August 15, 2010

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When BP finally stopped the oil flowing from its ruptured underwater well in the Gulf of Mexico last month [July 2010], the government announced that the 4.9 million barrels (more than 205 million gallons) of oil the well had spilled over the previous three months made it the worst accidental oil spill in U.S. and world history.

Along with most other media, I reported that conclusion, but one of my readers (a man named Craig) quickly pointed out that the government and the media were all mistaken and had not looked far enough back in the history books to get the facts straight--and he was right.

The Lakeview gusher of 1910 spilled 9 million barrels of oil (that's 378 million gallons) onto a patch of scrubland in Kern County, California, between the towns of Taft and Maricopa, about 110 miles north of Los Angeles. Once it blew, the Lakeview gusher was unstoppable for 18 months.

The initial flow from the Lakeview gusher was 18,000 barrels a day, building to an uncontrolled crescendo of 100,000 barrels daily, and eventually producing only 30 barrels a day after the flood of California crude was finally stopped.

Ironically, the Lakeview gusher might never have happened if the crew on site had obeyed orders from bosses in Los Angeles. After months of unproductive drilling, Union Oil headquarters sent word to shut down the operation and abandon the well. But the crew, led by a foreman nicknamed Dry Hole Charlie, wouldn't give up. They ignored the orders and kept on drilling.

In mid-March 1910, 2,200 feet below the surface, the drilling tapped into a high-pressure reservoir and the well blew with such force that the eruption demolished the wooden derrick and created a crater so large that no one could get close enough to the well to try capping it. The well kept gushing until September 1911.

The Lakeview gusher didn't actually do much environmental damage. Black mist fell for miles around, and only the valiant work of oil workers and volunteers building dykes by hand prevented the oil from contaminating Buena Vista Lake to the east, but most of the oil soaked into the sagebrush studded soil or evaporated. And while 100 years later the area is still soaked with oil, the long-term environmental impact of the spill is generally considered minimal.

So while the Lakeview Gusher was larger in volume than the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf spill was a far bigger environmental and economic disaster.

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August 17, 2010 at 1:02 am
(1) Jim says:

“the Gulf spill was a far bigger environmental and economic disaster.” Excuse me, but really now, was the gulf spill really that big of a disaster? I believe mother nature took care of 90% of the spill on her own. All the hyperbole was for not! Liberal Media? Baloney.

August 17, 2010 at 11:29 am
(2) Patrick Dugan says:

Your blog topic re: “Is global warming a hoax?”is very misleading because it misses the crucial point. The hoax is that too many are saying that CO2 is a primary cause of global warming without providing any hard evidence! CO2 is not a primary cause of global warming. It is a minor contributor. If you have any hard evidence I would like to see it.

August 18, 2010 at 10:26 pm
(3) EDpeak says:

“if you have any hard evidence I would like to see it.” the problem isn’t lack of evidence, but so many mountains of evidence…where to begin? There are, in fact, estimates in terms of “watts per square meter” of the effect of CO2 on heat, the effect of methane, the cooling effect of some aerosols, the heating of others, and so on and so forth..all of that and much more…And yes a piece of that is CO2..now, maybe you’ve heard water vapor is ‘bigger factor’ but guess what determines how much water vapor? the amounts of CO2 we’ve released, that’s what..Or course if the physics said that CO2 didn’t warm the planet we’d be freezing and venus wouldn’t be hot, it is basic physics that co2 has a greenhouse effect, and a useful one at lower levels or we’d freeze..so I assume you’re not disputing that basic science, but asking how much of the added human release co2 creates how much heat..and you want to search for articles on watts per square meter…Now, if you’re honest and care about the truth and about the planet, then you don’t have to even wait until you research that, before being concerned about co2,…why? Because it’s already had effects that are serious like the 30% increase in hydrogen ion changing the pH of the oceans, is already large enough to affect animals and its growing every year, this effect..so even if warming never happened we’d still have plenty reason to worry about burning in 200 years what earth took tens of millions to move the co2 into fossil fuels..that ratio alone tells you something..yes co2 was higher 50-500 million years ago…ever see a map of the earth then? florida under water and worse…but ever see a map of co2 over the last 650,000 years? You know, many times older than humanity? ever see that graph? it goes up and down back and forth during glaciation cycles up and down between 180ppm and 280 or 300ppm and not higher, all those hundreds of thousands of years, then pops up since industrial revolution to huge increase to today’s almost 390ppm…

Please see


and that one stops at 380ppm which it was about 5 years ago, today it’s about 389ppm

September 21, 2010 at 11:30 am
(4) noname says:

The biggest oil spill was and is Alberta oil sands as the tailings pond leaks 40 olympic size swimming pools of pollution every day for over half century The conservatives in Alberta are FACIST

February 6, 2011 at 7:59 pm
(5) natural resources says:

noname … where did you get that information from the local rag mag, or one of the non-educated enviromental activists that has never been anywhere near there?

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