Autumn 1994 (2.3)
Environmental Disasters of the Past
The Great Oil Spouters of Baku
September 27, 1896
"The next oil bed was struck at 714 feet when the oil began to spout with a record amount of power, driving upwards to a height of 224 feet. It gave a production at the rate of 30,000 poods per hour. (Russian unit of weight equal to 36.11 pounds).
The Bakinskiya Izvestiya (Baku newspaper) describes the scene: "From the town the fountain had the appearance of a colossal pillar of smoke, from the crest of which clouds of oil and sand detached themselves and floated away at a great distance without touching the ground. Owing to the prevalence of southerly winds, the oil was blown in the direction of Bailov Point, covering hill and dale with sand and oil, and drenching the houses of Bailove, a mile and a half away.
"Nothing could be done to stop the outflow. The whole district of Bibi-Eybat was covered with oil, which filled up the cavities, formed a lake, and on the fifth day began pouring into the sea. The outflow during three days was estimated at 5,000 or 6,000 tons daily. On the 6th day the wind freshened, and the oil spray began flying all over the town. The square in front of the Town Hall of Baku was drenched with petroleum which even fell on houses in the outskirts to the north.
"The loss was prodigious. On the 8th day, the maximum was reached, the oil then spouting at the rate of 700,000 poods per day. To prevent the oil being totally lost, attempts were made to divert the stream away from the sea into some old wells.
"After the 10th day, it began to diminish, and by the 15th day, the engineers had it so far under control that the outflow was only 60,000 poods per day. Altogether, close to 12,000,000 poods are estimated to have come to the surface and most of this was lost for want of storage accommodation. The oil simply poured into the Caspian Sea and was lost for ever to mankind."
Henry, J. D. (1905). Baku: An Eventful History. Bradbury, Agnew: London , pp. 104-5.
From Azerbaijan International (2.3) Autumn 1994.
© Azerbaijan International 1994. All rights reserved.