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The Curious Story Of Lake Peigneur [VIDEO]

Lake Peigneur was a serene freshwater lake located in Iberia Parish, Louisiana near the northernmost tip of Vermilion Bay. It was prized spot for sportsmen until a man-made disaster changed the landscape and entire ecology of the lake forever.

South Louisiana is rich in natural resources, two of which are petroleum products (oil and natural gas) and salt. It just so happened that Lake Peigneur rested just above an area containing both. Below the lake bed rested a deposit of oil and below that a gigantic salt dome, both of which were in simultaneous mining operations by two separate companies. One fateful day, while the Diamond Crystal Salt company was underground in the dome, The Texaco Oil Company had a rig on the lake, and they made a miscalculation that would forever change Lake Peigneur.

On November 20, 1980 the Texaco rig, thinking it was drilling into an oil deposit, accidentally poked a 14-inch drill bit through the top of the salt dome. The water in the lake started rushing into the cavernous salt mine. As it did, the soil and salt holding the top of the dome together started dissolving opening up the once 14-inch hole to one several feet across. What happened next is the stuff of science-fiction.

According to Wikipedia:

The resultant whirlpool sucked in the drilling platform, eleven barges, many trees and 65 acres (260,000 m2) of the surrounding terrain. So much water drained into those caverns that the flow of the Delcambre Canal that usually empties the lake into Vermilion Bay was reversed, making the canal a temporary inlet. This backflow created, for a few days, the tallest waterfall ever in the state of Louisiana, at 164 feet (50 m), as the lake refilled with salt water from the Delcambre Canal and Vermilion Bay. The water downflowing into the mine caverns displaced air which erupted as compressed air and then later as 400-foot (120 m) geysers up through the mineshafts.

One wrong move changed an entire lake’s ecosystem in less than a week, something that would take hundreds or thousands of years to do naturally.

In the aftermath, Texaco had to pay out millions of dollars to the Diamond Crystal Salt Company and a local plant nursery for damages. Luckily no one was injured or killed, but the event still echoes in the minds of people who watch their land get swallowed up by this crazy event.

For a more in-depth report, check out this clip from The History Channel:

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