138 Degrees in the Shade, Part two
August 15th 1965, the Red Desert of Libya.
Of course, Bill and I know everybody in Norphlet so we spend a few hours a day just talking about folks back home. Two Norphlet High School graduates in charge of drilling a multi-million dollar well for Exxon. It’s pretty unbelievable, but after a few days it just hot and work, work, work, and thoughts of home pass.
Yes, things are pretty grim and unbelievably hot, but the food is a real plus. The rig is a French rig, and they have a French chef. At lunch today the chef told us he has just received his supplies, and it included what he called a French delicacy; squid. Well, Vertis and I had fried squid when we spent a week in Athens and those small calamari were very tasty.
It’s almost seven and we have just sat down to have dinner, and after an appetizer of whipped cream and onions, the chef brings out the main course. I’m looking for a pile of fried calamari, but instead the chef dips up a whole 18 inch squid and plops it on my plate. Then he takes a ladle and splashes a black sauce on top of the squid, and he says, “Squid in its own sauce.”
It really looks gross, and I can smell a very fishy smell to go with it, but I know I have to try it.
No, no, I can’t eat the squid, that bite has stuck in my throat. I check Bill, and he has just laid his fork down. Yes, the chef is muttering something;
Wow, he just spit that out, but you would have had to hogtie me to eat that squid, so I’m quietly muttering “Yes” as the French crew gobbles up the squid. Yes, I do feel like an ugly American, but I don’t think many Americans would eat that squid, head and all, like the French crew did.
It’s a few days later when one of the Libyans came back with a small gazelle that he managed to chase down with a Land Rover. Well, I really don’t approve of hunting with a Land Rover, but he dressed the gazelle and took it to the French chef to prepare.
My gosh, I’ve just had maybe the best meal in my life. Of course, we’re making over how good it was to the chef, he’s beaming, and he rewards our compliments with a French cheesecake.
I’ve been waiting for the new bit that was put on at 8500 feet to get dull, which will give me about eight hours free while the crew pulls drill string and changes the bit. I’ve heard about rock carving made by pre-historic desert people on some cliff walls north of the rig, and I want to see the carvings, which are actually called petroglyphs. As I walk out of the dining hall, I see the drill pipe coming out of the hole, and I’m heading for my Land Rover.
I’ve been driving for about an hour due north, and then, when I see a ridge over to the west, I turn and drive toward it. Thirty minutes later and I’m pulling up beside some impressive outcrops of sandstone where I notice something under the overhanging sandstone ledge. Then, on the sandstone wall under the ledge I see a carving. I can make out a stick figure and an animal, which is pretty fat. An elephant?
That’s when I see a military looking vehicle heading my way with its light flashing. What? Algerian Border Patrol flashes through my mind, and after I yell, “Oh my God! I’m in Algeria!” I take off driving east, but they’re coming after me with lights flashing! I’m driving across the flat desert as fast as my Land Rover will take me, but they are gaining. That’s when I hear what might be a gunshot or the Land Rover backfiring, which makes me hunker down and stomp the accelerator to the floor. A dirty, hot Algerian jail comes to mind. Another noise and then another, and they are about to catch me, but as I dip into a dry stream bed, I turn and roar down over a rocky bottom for a few hundred yards, and up the other side I see them slowing down because there are some good size rocks in that dry stream bed, and now I’m gaining on them, and after another ten minutes they turn back. I guess I’m back in Libya.
My hands are shaking as I drive up to the rig. The last joint of pipe has just gone in the hole from a trip to change bit, and the driller has started back to drilling when I hear the rig brake start squealing as the driller eases off of the brake. That means the bit is penetrating rocks that are very porous, and are easy to drill.
I walk out of the trailer, get the attention of the driller on the rig and give him a circle sign over my head, which means to stop drilling and circulate while we wait on the samples to come to the surface. From the depth we are drilling it will take about 20 minutes. I note the drilling mud looks a little frothy, and I yell to the driller, “Pierre! Gas cut mud! Get ready to close the rams, if it kicks.” The first samples are coming to the surface now, and as I reach out to get a handful of cuttings, I can smell oil. I take a quick whiff of the sample and nod, good oil odor. I stick my tongue to the samples, no salt taste..good.
I’m heading down to the mudlog trailer with a bag of cutting to examine under the microscope Fifteen minutes later and I’ve examined the samples. They have good oil odor, fluorescence, oil staining, and I could see porosity in the sample. Well, another DST. I walk up to the rig where Bill Sandifer is standing.
“Good show, Bill. We’re going to test it. Set the packer at eight-thousand and eighty-five feet, fifteen minute open, and two hour final. If you flow oil, reverse it out.”
“You got, Richard, but you’re gonna hear that bunch of roughnecks scream, when I tell them they are going to pull the pipe again and DST. Hell, they’ve been working all day making a trip, and they are about to have another eight hours of the same thing in this heat.”
“Yeah, Bill, I know, but with a show like I just logged, the office would have my hide if I didn’t test it.”
“Oh, I know it, Richard, but this crew has been drilling over in Algeria on field wells,
and they never test any of those wells.”
“I think I’ll check things out at my trailer, while you tell the driller to come out of the hole for a test.”
Bill laughs and I’m walking toward my trailer when I hear a string of what I think are French cuss words. The only word I can make out is “American!”
To be continued
138 Degrees in the Shade, Part two