Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lake Peigneur Sinkhole

The lake was a 10-foot (3 m) deep freshwater lake popular with sportsmen until an unusual man-made disaster on November 20, 1980, changed the structure of the lake and surrounding land.

River flowing backwards
River flowing backwards
On November 20, 1980, when the disaster took place, the Diamond Crystal Salt Company operated the Jefferson Island salt mine under the lake, while a Texaco oil rig drilled down from the surface of the lake searching for petroleum.

Concluding that something had gone terribly wrong, 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 in amazement as the huge platform and derrick overturned, and disappeared into a lake that was supposed to be shallow.

One explanation is that a miscalculation by Texaco regarding their location resulted in the drill puncturing the roof of the third level of the mine. This created an opening in the bottom of the lake. The lake then drained into the hole, expanding the size of that hole as the soil and salt were washed into the mine by the rushing water, filling the enormous caverns left by the removal of salt over the years. 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.

Meanwhile, up on the surface, the tremendous sucking power of the whirlpool was causing violent destruction. It 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

There were no injuries and no human lives lost. No official blame for the miscalculation was ever decided, because all of the evidence was sucked down the drain.  Days after the disaster, once the water pressure equalized, nine of the eleven sunken barges popped out of the whirlpool and refloated on the lake's surface.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Whiskey Bay Exit

Whiskey Bay Exit

Deep in the southern part of the state, off the Atchafalaya bridge, lies an out-of-place area near the interstate.  On maps, it is shown as "Whiskey Bay", exit Exit 127, off of Interstate 10.  Other than the occasional curious visitor, "edge of the bank" fisherman, and boat landing, there isn't much to see here.   In fact, for most motorists who use this exit, there's really no where to go other than return to the interstate which can be done by driving under the pass.
Under the bridge at Whiskey Bay exitAlligator near the water's edge

The entrance and exit was built during the 1960s when the highway system was being developed.  The "bay" is nothing more than a boat launch into the larger bayou  If you decide to take this exit, you will notice there are two "entrances" to private property.   It was designed to let those property owners access to this remote area.  As the Daily Advertiser states it, "This remote exit has a ramp that curves sharply, almost into a complete circle, and leads onto La. 975. Turn left onto La. 975, go just about 40 yards, and there's a huge white sign with "NO" written in large black letters. The sign is a not-so-subtle reminder that there is no public access into the woods beyond that point and trespassing is prohibited. Visitors clearly are not welcome."  

In recent times, the location was infamous related to the Mickey Shunick murder case.  After her disappearance, her bicycle was found not far from the exit.  "It's a secluded area. Most people that go out there are going to camps or just exiting the interstate for a second and then getting back on," said Maj. Johnny Blanchard, head of the Iberville Parish Sheriff's Office uniform patrol section. "There are no gas stations and no rest areas, just the boat launch. You have to go a mile or two before you see any camps. There is traffic in and out, but there are no residents or businesses anywhere around."

Other than existing as a glorified U-turn, this highway feature is a slightly bizarre thing to have on a major interstate.  



Always wanted to share stories and places of odd things about our state.  I hope to place information regarding offbeat, bizarre and strangely unique people, places and things both historic and current about Louisiana.    All of it for fun.