Gulf Spill Gives Scientists Deja Vu
It's the 1979 Ixtoc spill all over again
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2010 2:35 PM CDT
A young heron sits dying amidst oil splattering underneath mangrove on an island impacted by oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Barataria Bay, May 23, 2010.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(Newser) – The Deepwater Horizon rig wasn't the first to explode and spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists are looking back to a 1979 disaster that, they tell the Miami Herald , offers insight into the current disaster. “Everybody keeps saying the spill is unprecedented,” says one geologist. “That is such bullshit. We had perfect precedence.” The Ixtoc I, a Mexican-owned well, dumped 138 million gallons into the Gulf over 9 months.

“It coated the Texas beaches in a ribbon of oil 30 to 50 feet” wide, one researcher recalls, costing area restaurants and hotels millions, before tropical storms finally cleared the beaches. The well was capped with a cement plug. The Ixtoc was the largest accidental spill ever, but Deepwater Horizon could overtake it. BP says it's leaking "only" 210,000 gallons a day, but scientists say it's closer to 4 million.