Ixtoc: The Gulf's other massive oil spill no longer apparent
[LEFT] MALAQUITE BEACH, Texas ... The oil was everywhere, long black sheets of it, 15 inches thick in some places. Even if you stepped in what looked like a clean patch of sand, it quickly and gooily puddled around your feet. And Wes Tunnell, as he surveyed the mess, had only one bleak thought: "Oh, my God, this is horrible! It's all gonna die!''
But it didn't. Thirty-one years since the worst oil spill in North American history blanketed 150 miles of Texas beach, tourists noisily splash in the surf and turtles drag themselves into the dunes to lay eggs.
"You look around and it's like the spill never happened,'' shrugs Tunnell, a marine biologist. "There's a lot of perplexity in it for many of us.
Like the BP spill, the Ixtoc disaster began with a burst of gas followed by an explosion and fire, followed by a relentless gush of oil that resisted all attempts to block it. Plugs of mud and debris, chemical dispersants, booms skimming the surface of the water: Mexico's Pemex oil company tried them all, but still the spill inexorably crept ashore, first in southeast Mexico, later in Texas.
But if the BP spill seems to be repeating one truth already demonstrated in the Ixtoc spill ... that human technology is no match for a high-pressure undersea oil blowout ... scientists are hoping that it may eventually confirm another: that the environment has a stunning capacity to heal itself from manmade insults.
Not to make light of the BP disaster -- but it is interesting that Nature can bounce back.