Routine scan of Gulf of Mexico seabed for new petroleum pipelines reveals shipwrecks.
During World War II, U-boats prowled the Gulf of Mexico to disrupt the flow of oil carried by tankers departing ports in Louisiana and Texas.
Today’s petroleum companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico’s outer continental shelf routinely provide government scientists with sonar data for areas with potential archaeological value. Several federal agencies review oil and natural gas-related surveys every year, and over the years the data have revealed more than 100 historic shipwrecks in U.S. waters.
A 2001 archaeological survey by BP and Shell prior to construction of a natural gas pipeline confirmed discovery of U-166 about 45 miles off the Louisiana coast.
In 2001, the Minerals Management Service (superseded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management a decade later) noted that “a German submarine definitely got our attention.”
The 1954 platform’s design and technology would be declared a mechanical engineering landmark.
When the barge drilling platform Mr. Charlie left its New Orleans shipyard for the Gulf of Mexico on June 15, 1954, it became the world’s first mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU).
Using advanced technology, the self-sufficient Mr. Charlie went to work for Shell Oil Company in a new oilfield in East Bay, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. A reporter from LIFE magazine covered the launch, noting the new “singularly monstrous contraption” could drill “a 12,000-foot hole at a different location every month.”
Beginning in 1954 and capable of drilling wells in water up to 40 feet in depth, Mr. Charlie was the first mobile offshore drilling platform. Photos courtesy Murphy Oil Corporation.
Mr. Charlie offered an exploration alternative to erecting permanent, pile-supported offshore drilling platforms to be tendered by utility boats. Kerr-McGee had pioneered this approach with the Kermac No. 16 in 1947, but Mr. Charlie could drill in water twice as deep and then move to another site. (more…)
America’s offshore petroleum industry began with drilling and production from platforms constructed on lakes in Ohio and Louisiana, and on California oil piers. In Ohio, state geologists reported oil wells drilled on Grand Lake as early as 1891. Dozens of wells on Louisiana’s Caddo Lake also produced oil in 1911.
By 1897, Henry Williams had successfully pursued the giant Summerland, California, oilfield to the scenic cliff side beaches of Santa Barbara.
With reports of “tar balls” on the beaches from natural offshore oil seeps, Williams recognized that the highly productive field extended into the Pacific Ocean. He and his associates constructed a 300 foot pier, mounted a cable-tool derrick, and began drilling. (more…)
Inventor Thomas Rowland would become known for his oil storage tanks.
For many experts, the beginning of the modern offshore petroleum industry can be traced to an 1869 offshore rig patent by New York engineer Thomas Rowland, who had helped build the USS Monitor during the Civil War.
On May 4, 1869, Thomas Fitch Rowland, owner of Continental Iron Works in Greenpoint, New York, received a patent for his “submarine drilling apparatus.”
In 1861, inventor John Ericsson hired Thomas Rowland (1831-1907) to build an “iron-clad battery” for the Union.