A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher

Mattathias Schwartz writes:

Achenbach examines the many public hearings held by the Marine Board of Investigation in New Orleans to ascertain what actually took place on the rig. Among his findings is testimony about a discussion held in the Deepwater Horizon’s drilling room to determine why there were 1400 pounds of pressure in the drill pipe if the cement job had worked and the well was indeed sealed. Just before the blowout several workers on the rig persuaded one another that the pressure was caused by a ‘bladder effect’, when the glaring but inconvenient truth was that the cement job had failed. Three of the men in the drill shack, including the one said to have suggested the bladder effect, would be killed less than 24 hours later in the blowout. Their willingness to explain away the anomalous pressure readings should be remembered alongside Stanley Milgram’s famous electroshock experiments as a case study of the extent to which authority can warp perception.

(LRB 6 October 2011)