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45 Years Ago Today: 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill


On the afternoon of January 29, 1969, an environmental nightmare began in Santa Barbara. A Union Oil Co. platform stationed six miles off the coast of Summerland suffered a blowout. The platform ruptured because of inadequate protective casing.

For eleven days, oil workers struggled to cap the rupture. During that time, 200,000 gallons of crude oil bubbled to the surface and was spread into a 800 square mile slick by winds and swells. Incoming tides brought the thick tar to beaches from Rincon Point to Goleta, marring 35 miles of coastline

Beaches with off-shore kelp forests were spared the worst as kelp fronds kept most of the tar from coming ashore. The slick also moved south, tarring Anacapa Island’s Frenchy’s Cove and beaches on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands.

Animals that depended on the sea were hard hit. Incoming tides brought the corpses of dead seals and dolphins. Oil had clogged the blowholes of the dolphins, causing massive lung hemorrhages. Animals that ingested the oil were poisoned.

However, in the spring following the oil spill, Earth Day was born nationwide. Many consider the publicity surrounding the oil spill a major impetus to the environmental movement… “It is sad that it was necessary that Santa Barbara should be the example that had to bring it to the attention of the American people. What is involved is the use of our resources of the sea and of the land in a more effective way and with more concern for preserving the beauty and the natural resources that are so important to any kind of society that we want for the future. The Santa Barbara incident has frankly touched the conscience of the American people,” said Richard Nixon, President of the United States at the time of the spill.

10 Responses to “45 Years Ago Today: 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill”

  1. 200,000 gallons is only 3 days of Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s contamination, 60.000 gallons a day.

    • What is the real pollution?

      Reason it is even called “Deepwater Horizon” is because the short-sighted enviro-nazi regs forced oil drilling further and further out into the sea, where the whole operation became more treacherous.

      I hope you are also following the total fraud and corruption many of the B-P mitigation fund claims have become. So much for peace, love Kumbayah Gaia principles operating when there is money on the table.

      • Anonymous

        Are you serious? Get the facts straight. Offshore oil production has nothing to do with being forced into it by regulations. It has to do with the bottom line. Oil drillers have to go further and deeper because…drum roll….it’s not cost effective to try and get the last drop out of old fields, and the new discoveries are offshore and in tar sands, more difficult to get and more expensive to drill for. Get off the Fox news talking points and study a little. Science, my man, science. This idea that we’ll be energy independent and exporting tons of oil is complete bunk propoganda. Every oil producer in the country knows it. You don’t because you believe in the mantra against any environmental protection. Is this what we get with our dumbed down edumicational system? Parrots?

        • Dragnet Rules

          Are you serious? You are just spouting a canned political eco-party line. Time to get off MSNBC, if you want facts and science.

  2. Anonymous

    Cant even imagine how bad that was. THanks for the reminder to keep oil companies out of SB!

  3. 45 years of eco-stupidity

    Oil companies learned a lot from what happened here 45 years ago. Absolutely no reason to ban oil production in these parts. You people had better stop spending public dollars like water, if you don’t want oil. 45 years of trying to have it both ways, spending and killing local revenues has only created one huge pothole far more damaging than that one oil spill. Time to get over your eco-piety. Sick of all this eco-piousness.

  4. Anonymous

    Hey there 45 years, tell all of that to those people in West Virginia who have no drinking water. They didn’t believe in regulation to protect our resources from those who would put their profit above your health or even your basic necessities like water. Now they’re out of potable water and what now there big Mister Know everything? Maybe you should move over there and tell us all about it. Tell us all how the deregulation scheme is working out for those fools. Or maybe you can get on the news and drink some frack chemicals for us all to see how safe that is. You live in a beautiful area that would look like a dump without regulation. So get over it the government regulates and I want them to so I don’t have to drive 60 miles for a shower like those brilliant West Virginians. Hey you’d be in heaven in a deregulated free-for-all dumb-fest.

  5. Speaking in Tongues

    The Church of Green conducts mid-week services for its true believers; online at SBView..

  6. Speaking in Tongues

    Last I heard “in this beautiful area” the county dug itself into a one billion dollar unfunded liability debt and the city dug itself into a half billion unfunded liability debt. How are they going to pay off those obligations, I ask you?

    And I ask you, did you vote for exactly the same people who recklessly ran up those obligations in the first place because they wore their enviro-fig leafs in their campaign ads?

    So much for regulating our “beautiful area” revenues into a permanent fiscal toxic dump. Back to living in wattle and daub huts.

    Too bad the Chumash got so rich and are now living in McMansions so they can no longer teach us their native ways so we may live more gently on Mother Earth. Bummer.

  7. Wow! That’s a lot of oil spilled, almost as much as what seeps up “naturally” via mother nature in Santa Barbara channel every single day & year for the last 100,000 years.

    And that terrible tragedy in the gulf by BP (Deepwater Horizon) was as much because they were allowed to get away with cutting corners after becoming Obama’s favorite oil company via massive political donations.

    The natural seeps along the Santa Barbara Coast make 1969 look like a picnic. Just google UCSB study of Santa Barbara Channel Island oil seeps and you will have hours of reading entertainment. Here is ONE of the sites that comes up; that actual scientific data is mind-numbing, however the amount of oil & natural gas being “dumped” by nature into the environment is astounding.