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Pinellas history

Last of big oil companies leave offshore Florida field

Published October 1, 2006

OCT. 6, 1975

Offshore oil drilling in Florida - a $1-billion gamble by oil companies confident of finding vast reserves of bubbling black crude beneath untapped gulf waters - is a bust.

Last week, Gulf Oil Co. became the last of five major oil consortiums to abandon drilling off Florida's coast, leaving behind a string of 15 successive dry wells where geologists had once predicted a major find.

The oil industry terms the failure in Florida "spectacular," the "worst disappointment in 20 years of federal leasing in the Gulf." A Gulf Oil spokesman in Houston called the drilling in Florida a "game of Russian roulette where everyone lost."

Gulf's last well was the deepest and most expensive of the wells dug off Florida's shores, a $6.5-million effort driven nearly 4 miles beneath the surface to no avail. Gulf spokesman Steve Milburn says that Gulf, in conjunction with other companies, spent more than $96-million in all for the land lease and geological and environmental studies to drill four wells. And they were all dry.

Exxon paid a record $632-million for leases on the Destin Anticline, a dome-shaped geological formation offshore of the Panhandle where scientists had predicted that a bonanza of oil and gas could be found. But after spending $15-million drilling seven dry holes, Exxon pulled out June 10 and announced it had "no plans for additional drilling" on its Destin leases.

Shell Oil Co. abandoned its leases off Dunedin in May after six months of a fruitless search for oil. A Texaco group abandoned its first well off New Port Richey in January to start anew near Indian Rocks Beach - but again found failure.

While environmentalists may be rejoicing in the industry's failure off Florida, industry experts say it will weather the storm. In oil exploration, the odds are 10-1 that any oil or gas will be found and 50-1 that enough oil or gas will be found to support commercial recovery, they say, and so oil companies are used to gambling and losing.

Sept. 28, 1972

Citizen push urged for housing action

CLEARWATER - Citizen involvement, to the point of public demonstrations if necessary, is needed to push city officials into action for solutions to the need for low-cost housing, a Tampa official told a Clearwater Area League of Women Voters workshop Wednesday.

Robert Moore, administrator of Tampa's Project Pride, said the major problem in housing is the unwillingness of bureaucrats and private citizens to commit to providing decent housing for all.

Often, Moore said, the resistance to involvement in federally financed programs, ostensibly because of the red tape involved, really is because city administrators don't want people in the communities affected to have a voice in what happens to their environment.

Robert Hackworth, chairman of Clearwater Neighbor's Project Twinkle, a housing rehabilitation effort, outlined the frustrating problems he and others encountered in a private attempt to get the financing and construction necessary to rehabilitate eight houses for resale to low income persons that was eventually successful.

Hackworth said he determined early in the effort that the city was no place to turn for help.

OCT. 16, 1978

State opens Caladesi Island to visitors

DUNEDIN - Caladesi Island, containing one of the Suncoast's most beautiful beaches, until recently was inaccessible to anyone except boat-owners and strong swimmers.

But in April, the slender, 3-mile island paralleling the shoreline of Dunedin was opened up to the general public for the first time. The Florida Department of Natural Resources, which operates the 653-acre island as a state park, awarded a contract for a ferry service from Dunedin to the largely undeveloped island.

The beginning of ferry service to Caladesi Island was not without controversy. For years, the island was blessed as an unspoiled haven from congested living. It developed somewhat of a mystique among local history buffs and naturalists, having been the home of wild hogs, native Indians and, ultimately, of a Swiss naturalist named Henry Scharrer, who came upon the island in 1888, fell in love with it and bought it.

But the state of Florida bought the island for $2.9-million in 1968 for the purpose of protecting it from large-scale developers.


Pinellas History is compiled by Times staff writer Theresa Blackwell. You can reach her at or 727 445-4170.

[Last modified October 1, 2006, 07:31:37]

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