One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with the oil spill in the gulf is the uncertainty of what will happen next. With the struggle to cap the well an ongoing experiment in uncharted technology and the arrival of the oil on Louisiana’s shores and marshes a terrifying guessing game, many residents of the Bayou State are overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness and despair. There have been a lot of statements about the “unprecedented nature of the spill,” but the Miami Herald reports today that the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon well closely mirrors the 1979 explosion of the Ixtoc I, drilled by Mexican-run Pemex, off the Yucatan Peninsula.

The Ixtoc I blowout holds the inglorious record for causing the world’s largest oil spill, dumping an estimated 138 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico during the nine months it took to cap the well. The oil from the Ixtoc I coated Texas beaches, which took three years to recover. But little oil penetrated the fragile marshes and wetlands behind the sand beaches.

For the story of the Ixtoc I, and another major deep water oil spill, the Montara spill, which blew out in the waters between Australia and Indonesia, click here.

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