After 15 long months of no work and no income I finally got the message that I’d almost given up all hope of ever receiving..."You'll be flying out to the rig either this Wednesday or next Wednesday!"
There's barely enough adjectives to describe the feelings it evoked as I read it. The initial reaction was utter surprise; disbelief; can this be for real? Then the adrenaline kicked in and cautious excitement took over. I broke into a nervous smile while standing all alone in the new home I had recently moved to. I felt too scared to move in case this moment wasn't real and the text message vanished into the thin air from where it came.
There had been recent communications hinting that it might happen but I never let myself get optimistic about the prospect of going back to work as a wellsite geologist any time soon...if in fact, ever...because I knew there were just no jobs out there. Over the past year I had read so many social media posts/blogs/articles written by geologists who felt they had been “abandoned by the industry” and while that was how the job situation made you feel, the reality was that there just weren’t any jobs out there. Working predominantly in exploration drilling, wellsite geologists, and others involved in the upstream drilling operations, have been severely affected by the downturn.
More text messages and emails soon followed with further instructions about my travel arrangements to the rig; people I had to contact, visa documents that needed filling out, mobilisation details to clarify. I was still reluctant to get too excited for fear of jinxing myself or getting too comfortable with the possibility that my luck had finally changed.
As the emails started to come in and the cc list of recipients grew I started to let myself believe this might actually be going to happen...recruitment agency operations manager, operations geologist, overseas onshore logistics specialist, offshore logistics coordinator, travel agent...they all wanted my help in getting the process moving as quickly as possible. After replying to the flurry of emails I took a deep breath and finally allowed myself to accept this was really going to happen.
This could have been happening to some other wellsite geologist anywhere around the world but it wasn't, it was happening to me...finally!! I wanted to yell it from the treetops, pop a bottle of champagne...but I didn't have one, nor could I afford one!
It was time to start letting my family and friends know that I was "back". I knew they would probably be even more relieved than I was, knowing they no longer had to tip toe around the subject of me earning no money. The first person I sent a message to was my harshest critic but still a faithful supporter (if only maybe out of familial duty), my driller son. He was almost due to return home from a hitch on a rig himself and replied with the candor and back-to-earth practicalities that I would fully expect from him:
"Good luck. Bout fkn time. You gonna be home on Thursday to pick me up from the airport?"
I translated that to mean he was happy for me...he's never been one for gushing affection, as you'd expect from a second-generation driller. He may not have been quite as excited about the news as I was but I knew he would have been equally as relieved to know I was finally going back to work and earning money.
And just like that I was heading back to a rig within a week. No job application process, no interview, just an almost-random message out of the blue to say I was needed on the rig. Although I knew it might just be a one-off 3-week hitch it still felt like I was finally back in the fray…my knowledge and experience was about to matter once again…I wasn’t “abandoned” any longer.
As the Singapore Airlines plane touched down at Yangon International Airport, Myanmar, where I would be getting the chopper out to the rig the next morning, I couldn’t help thinking how good it was to be back. I knew it was just a small step but it was one that at least gave me some hope that things might start to improve from here. It’s the first sign I’d had of that in over a year so I was grateful for even getting as far as mobilising to a rig. At the very least I had already just clocked up one day of travel pay!
Amanda Barlow is a wellsite geologist in the offshore oil and gas industry and also a published author of "Offshore Oil and Gas PEOPLE - Overview of Offshore Drilling Operations" and “An Inconvenient Life – My Unconventional Career as a Wellsite Geologist”.
She is also a recreational marathoner who has run over 40 marathons in 16 different countries and is the author of “Call of the Jungle – How a Camping-Hating City-Slicker Mum Survived an Ultra Endurance Marathon through the Amazon Jungle”, an account of her participation in one of the worlds most extreme multi-stage endurance events.