A leak in the Santa Barbara Channel 5-1/2 miles offshore resulted in oil contamination along nearly 80 miles of California shoreline. The initial efforts to disperse the oil slick and methods used to restore the beaches, harbors, and seawalls are discussed. Aspects of various other facets of the cleanup operations are also presented.

By June 1, 1969, four months after the leak occurred, the beaches were available for general use except for occasional recontamination. This is evidence of the effectiveness of the methods.


The Santa Barbara Channel, which lies off the central coast of California, extends from Point Conception to an area beyond the City of Ventura - a distance of nearly 80 miles. The channel is oriented in a general east to Nest direction with the mainland on the north and four channel islands on the south.

In February 1968, the first major federal lease sale off California was held. Union, Gulf, Mobil, and Texaco were the successful bidders on Parcel 402 located approximately 5-1/2 miles offshore near the city of Santa Barbara. Union subsequently became the operator for the group. On January 28, 1969, during routine drilling operations, gas, and later oil, unexpectedly began to flow to the surface from the fifth well drilled from Platform A. Although blowout preventers closed Platform A. Although blowout preventers closed to shut in the well, gas and oil continued to flow into the Santa Barbara Channel through fissures in the ocean floor. Within 24 hours, an oil slick of approximately 25 square miles extended easterly from the platform. Patches of oil were breaking off from the main body in wind rows. These patches were trending toward the Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria beaches.

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