BY JASON KOTOWSKI, Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lakeview Gusher and the ongoing BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico both spewed millions of gallons of oil, but that's about where the similarity ends.
The debacle in the Gulf has resulted in the loss of both human and marine life and could have a catastrophic long-term impact on the environment. Anger has mounted nationwide as the devastating effects of the spill only grow greater.
Kern County's Lakeview Gusher, on the other hand, was something of an attraction.
It was March 15, 1910, when oil exploded from the Lakeview No. 1 well two miles outside Maricopa. The flow of oil didn't stop until 18 months later when the well finally caved in at the bottom.
In the meantime, the sheer volume of flowing oil created a lake around the well and eventually formed an 8-mile-long river of oil. The deluge even threatened to travel into Buena Vista Lake, according to the 1976 William Rintoul book "Spudding In: Recollections of Pioneer Days in the California Oil Fields."
Hundreds of men amassed sand bags and sagebrush to form a levee and restrain the continuous flow, Rintoul said. No one died as a result of the gusher.
"The only casualties were the skin injuries suffered by many men as a result of the distillate baths required after ten- and twelve-hour shifts in the oily spray that enveloped the well," Rintoul wrote.
Environmental damage was minimal, third-generation oilman Bruce Holmes said. The surrounding land was mostly sagebrush and dirt.
"In those days we weren't worried about rabbits and lizards like we are today," he said.
The gusher couldn't be stopped with the technology available at the time, so as it flowed oilmen tried to capture as much of the crude as possible. Despite their efforts, most of the oil went to waste.
Of the nine million barrels of oil that rose from the gusher, only four million were captured, Rintoul says. Nine million barrels is the equivalent of 378 million gallons.
As of Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that anywhere from 67 million to 127 million gallons have spilled into the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. The blast killed 11 workers and blew out the well.
Aside from the environmental destruction and loss of life, the biggest difference between the Lakeview and Gulf incidents may have been residents' attitudes toward the situation. People traveled from all around to get a look at the gusher. It was an event, not a disaster.
Actually, the city attorney of Bakersfield at the time probably considered it a disaster, if only a personal one.
Rintoul wrote that the attorney had bought the Lakeview property in 1901 for a few bucks, and then sold it for not much more after drilling a thousand-foot dry hole.