The oil drill pierced a mine, creating a whirlpool that sucked in a lake, an island and 11 barges in 3 hours.
12 men were probing for oil under the floor of Lake Peigneur when their drill suddenly seized 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.
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 as the huge platform and derrick overturned, and disappeared into the lake and the water became a fast-moving whirlpool a quarter of a mile in diameter.
The tremendous sucking power of the whirlpool swallowed another nearby drilling platform whole, as well as a barge loading dock, 70 acres of soil from Jefferson Island, trucks, trees, structures, and a parking lot. The sucking force was so strong that it reversed the flow of a 12-mile-long canal which led out to the Gulf of Mexico, and dragged 11 barges from that canal into the swirling vortex, where they disappeared into the flooded mines below. It also overtook a manned tug on the canal, which struggled against the current for as long as possible before the crew had to leap off onto the canal bank and watch as the lake consumed their boat.
In three hours, the lake was drained of 3.5 billion gallons of water. The water from the canal, now flowing in from the Gulf of Mexico, formed a 150-foot waterfall into the crater where the lake had been, filling it with salty ocean water.
Remarkably, no lives were lost in the incident.