Government & Politics

What’s in a blowout’s name?

The May 1980 issue of Popular Mechanics discusses what at that time was the world’s worst oil spill – the Ixtoc I blowout, which gushed an estimated 140 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico for 10 months. Towards the end of the article we learn that “Ixtoc”, is the Mayan term for “blowout,” or “damn blowout.”  I’m not kidding!

Recently, government officials upwardly revised estimates of the Macondo oil gusher for the fourth time. Despite recent forecasts to the contrary, and BP’s attempts to capture ever greater portions of the released oil, the open wound created by the Deepwater Horizon rig  is on pace to surpass the Ixtoc in terms of total oil spilled. “Macondo” is the name of the doomed fictional town in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which gets wiped out by a hurricane. Again, I’m not kidding.

Last year, Australia’s third-worst oil spill  occurred after the Montara oil well blowout became an oil gusher that went unplugged for 73 days. The Spanish translation of “montara” means “mounting,” as in “Big Oil mounting the small people.” And  in at least one Aboriginal dialect, “montara” can be loosely translated as “Don’t Tease the Panther” (kidding, here). “Montara” was also a model name for an ugly recreational vehicles.

May I suggest that we not name potentially catastrophic well sites after blowouts or doomed towns? Can we not tempt the fates any more than necessary? What’s next? Kraken? Hubris I? Monty Burns?

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About Mark Moseley

Mark Moseley blogs at Your Right Hand Thief. Until mid 2014, Mark Moseley was The Lens' opinion writer, engagement specialist and coordinator for the Charter Schools Reporting Corps. After Katrina and the Federal Flood he helped create the Rising Tide conference, which grew into an annual social media event dedicated to the future of New Orleans.

  • All the ones I’ve worked on are named for fish, Greco-Roman gods and rock bands.

    May I suggest Yugo, Gigli and Richard Marx? Trainwrecks, if you ask me.

  • One of BP’s biggest offshore failures earlier in this decade was called Thunder Horse. It was supposed to be Crazy Horse after Neil Young’s band, but the Sioux objected.

  • BP Blow Out
    What you name a man-made disaster is different than calling the name of a natural event to describe a breakdown in human machinery.
    Had we allowed it, the Corps of Engineers and the ASCE would have succeeded in using paid public relations and nationwide seminars to name the Flood of New Orleans after Katrina.

    People are free in the US to spend as much money on raw PR marketing as British Petroleum has spent to NAME THEMSELVES WHAT THEY ARE NOT.
    That is fine. Call yourself whatever you want, but…
    Never let the Perp name their Crime.
    9/11 is a Terrorist Attack –not a Martyrdom.
    8/29 is a Catastrophic Engineering Failure –not a natural disaster.
    BP Blowout is an act of piracy at the very least and a crime none the less –not an “accident”, not a restaurant in NYC which is modeled after the fictional failed town “100 Years of Solitude”.
    Never let the Perp name their crime.

  • How about Nagin?

  • You missed the best (worst?) name:

    Chevron Typhoon. Here’s what it looked like after Katrina: