Friday, May 28, 2010

Another oil spill, another time

On a visit to the newly renovated Oakland Museum of California, I was brought up short by a display of artifacts from California's revelatory introduction to the perils of offshore drilling.

In 1969, Union Oil's Platform A blew up off Santa Barbara, the most visible and largest human-caused oil disaster up to that time.

For eleven days, oil workers struggled to cap the rupture. During that time, 200,000 gallons of crude oil bubbled to the surface and was spread into a 800 square mile slick by winds and swells. Incoming tides brought the thick tar to beaches from Rincon Point to Goleta, marring 35 miles of coastline. Beaches with off-shore kelp forests were spared the worst as kelp fronds kept most of the tar from coming ashore. The slick also moved south, tarring Anacapa Island's Frenchy's Cove and beaches on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands.

Don't we wish that the extent of the current Gulf gusher were so small.

Here, exhibited among other '60s relics, is a preserved specimen of the tar that washed up on southern California beaches:

genuine sb beach tar.jpg

Within days of the spill Bud Bottoms helped form GOO -- Get Oil Out, an anti-offshore drilling advocacy group. He contributed his pictures to the exhibit.

wide shot of SB.jpg

Fury about the Santa Barbara spill was thought to have contributed to the founding of Earth Day the following spring and continuing Californian hostility to drilling, however fond we are of our cars.

sb souvenir.jpg

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