Lake Peigneur Drilling Disaster
Lake Peigneur was a 10-foot-deep (3 m) freshwater body, popular with sportsmen, until an
unusual man-made disaster on November 20, 1980 changed its structure and the surrounding
On Thursday, November 20, 1980, the Diamond Crystal Salt Company salt mine under the lake
filled with water. An oil rig contracted by Texaco was doing exploratory drilling above the mine
at the time. The drilling likely started a chain of events that turned the shallow lake from fresh to
brackish water, with a deep hole.
The evidence which could be used to identify the exact cause was destroyed or washed away in
the ensuing maelstrom. However, the rig’s 14-inch (36 cm) drill bit had become stuck just two and-a-half hours before the draining was first observed. After the fact, engineers from Texaco
and Diamond Crystal worked together to pinpoint the likely location of the hole which may have
pierced the mine. They placed it within a mined-out portion of the 1300-foot level of the mine. If
the drill actually did puncture the roof of the mine, this would mean that Texaco had made a
serious mistake about the location of the bore hole in relation to the mine. Whatever the precise
cause, an opening formed 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 that had been left by the removal of salt since 1919.