Technical error caused the lake to disappear in an instant

By mistake when using the map, a team of engineers drilled into a salt mine below, creating a deep hole that drained Lake Peigneur in Louisiana.

Peigneur is a small, shallow salt lake off the coast of Vermilion Bay in southern Louisiana. On November 20, 1980, the lake briefly disappeared before becoming the deepest lake in the state. That morning, under the contract with Taxeco, a team of drilling engineers went to the exploratory drilling lake. They may just assume it’s a normal working day or just care how accurately they choose the drilling site. When drilling began, the engineering team quickly ran into problems. Their drill seems to be stuck. Then, the whole lake disappeared before their eyes along with the rig, several boats and a small island.

Technical error caused the lake to disappear in an instant
Lake Peigneur after the water dries up. (Photo: IFL Science).

Beneath the lake is a salt mine that has existed for more than 100 years. The engineering team assumed they were far away from the salt mine, but when they tried to pull out the drill, the whole rig began to tilt and disappear. The team rushed to shore. There, they saw with their own eyes the 46m drilling rig sinking into the 3m deep lake. Several nearby barges were swept into the giant whirlpool while the crater continued to expand. Meanwhile, the miners in the tunnel began to evacuate because the tunnel was filled with water.

The workers got out in time and watched a part of the neighboring island sink into the hole with enough force to make water shoot 122m high from the mouth of the tunnel. The lake once poured into Vermillion Bay through the Delcambre Canal, but the water reversed as soon as the lake dried up and water from the bay backflowed, temporarily creating a 50-meter-high waterfall that filled the newly dug hole, turning it into a large lake. most Louisiana. Texaco paid million in settlement with Diamond Crystal Salt for mine losses and .8 million to Live Oak Gardens Association and Live Oak Gardens Ltd.

The accident occurred due to the error of the measurement system. The engineer in charge of the project thinks that the map he is using is based on the Mercator coordinate system , but in fact the map uses the Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate system. Rendering 3D objects with 2D maps always leads to some problems. No matter how accurate the map is, some areas are stretched or missing.

The popular map we are used to is based on the Mercator projection created by cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569. It is a cylindrical map projection in which the globe is placed in a cylinder, at each point. on the map are projected onto a corresponding point on the cylinder. Longitudes are drawn as evenly spaced vertical lines on a map, and latitudes as equally spaced horizontal lines.

Both types of maps have errors due to the Mercator projection, but in the Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate system, the globe is divided into 60 planes and uses more local projections, resulting in more accurate maps at scale. local scale. Due to the mistake of the engineer, the engineers drilled the oil to the wrong place and eventually made the whole lake disappear.