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Harmon F. Roy Collection

Collection 178

Roy, Harmon F. (     -     ).  Collection, 1980

5 inches

This collection documents the Lake Peigneur disaster of November 20, 1980.

Before the disaster, Lake Peigneur was an unremarkable body of water near New Iberia, Louisiana.  Though the freshwater lake covered 1300 acres of land, it was only eleven feet deep.  A small island there was home to a beautiful botanical park, oil wells dotted the landscape, and far beneath the lake were miles of tunnels for the Diamond Crystal salt mine.

Before the disaster, Lake Peigneur was an unremarkable body of water near New Iberia, Louisiana.  Though the freshwater lake covered 1300 acres of land, it was only eleven feet deep.  A small island there was home to a beautiful botanical park, oil wells dotted the landscape, and far beneath the lake were miles of tunnels for the Diamond Crystal salt mine.

On November 20, 1980, when the disaster took place, the Diamond Crystal Salt Company was operating the Jefferson Island salt mine under the lake, while a Texaco oil rig was drilling down from the surface of the lake searching for petroleum.  Due to a miscalculation by Texaco regarding their location, the 14-inch drill bit punctured the roof of the mine at the third level, starting a chain of events which turned what was at the time a shallow freshwater lake into a salt water lake with a deep hole.  The lake drained into the hole, expanding the size of that hole as the soil and salt were washed into the mine by the rushing water, and filling the caverns left by the removal of salt over the years.  The whirlpool sucked in the drilling platform, eleven barges, many trees and 65 acres of the surrounding terrain.  The Delcambre Canal, which ran from Lake Peigneur to Vermilion Bay, flowed backwards, feeding saltwater into the lake until the mine filled and the lake refilled. Fortunately, there were no injuries and no human lives lost.  All 55 employees in the mine of the accident were able to escape safely. 

The drilling company, Texaco and Wilson Brothers settled out of court with Diamond Crystal and the nearby Live Oak Gardens to compensate for the damage caused.  The mine was finally closed in December 1986.

This collection consists of photographs donated by Harmon F. Roy, attorney for Diamond Crystal Salt Company. These photos are unidentified and undated.

Inventory:

1-01 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster
1-02 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster
1-03 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster
1-04 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster
1-05 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster
1-06 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster
1-07 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster
1-08 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster
1-09 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster
1-10 Photographs:  Lake Peigneur Disaster