IT looked like a massive, inflamed abscess bursting with reddish-brown pus. The huge bubble of oil and natural gas boiling up from beneath the surface of Santa Barbara Channel at a rate of almost 1,000 gallons an hour spilled across the blue water for eleven days. It finally coated an area of at least 400 square miles and fouled 40 miles of incomparable beach front with acrid, tarlike slime. TIME Correspondent Robert Anson, flying over the despoiled sea, found the fumes noxious at 1,000 feet.

Anson also found the mood of quiet, elegant Santa...

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