The IXTOC oil spill in 1979 was one of the world’s largest oil spills. The Mexican-owned oil company Pemex was drilling in the southern Gulf of Mexico when the rig blew out. An estimated 3.5 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf over nine months. The oil slick spread to the shorelines of Mexico and as far north as Texas.

Nearly 40 years later, Beneath the Horizon returns to the scene of the blowout to learn about how the environment responds over time to a spill of this magnitude. Because of the similarities to Deepwater Horizon in terms of the type of oil spilled, environment affected, and industries impacted, the IXTOC blowout can teach us about what to expect from the northern Gulf’s recovery in the years ahead.

View IXTOC-1: Timeline | Videos | LOOP podcasts




Episode 7: The Ixtoc Spill: Reflections

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened just a few years ago, but it might be possible to predict its impact on the Gulf by studying another major spill, one that happened in 1979. “These are two of the largest spills in the world’s history as far as blowouts go and they were both in the Gulf of Mexico”. Wes Tunnell is a marine biologist who is looking at the aftermath of both spills.

Episode 8: In the Mud in Mexico

Mind Open Media producer David Levin talks to David Hollander, Joel Ortega Ortiz, Isabel Romero, Adriana Gaytán-Caballero, and Travis Washburn about their experiences on the RV Justo Sierra in the southern Gulf of Mexico during the research on the Ixtoc spill.

Episode 9: Forensic Science

Listen to learn how scientists reanalyzed remotely sensed data taken in the late 1970s to study the Ixtoc 1 oil spill. Dr. Chuanmin Hu and his graduate student Shaojie Sun use the Landsat and Coastal Zone Color Scanner (CZCS) data to develop "treasure maps" of oil from the IXTOC-1 spill to steer field studies. Listen in to find out how they did it.