Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review - Fire on the Horizon (The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster)

Clay recommended this book to me. It is written in the style of Sebastian Junger in that it reads like fiction, but is fact. The first 200 pages or so are dedicated to background. The authors develop some of the key characters, describe the construction of the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, provide a pimer on drilling and well construction, and describe life on a rig and the lifestyle of the rotating shift offshore worker. After 200 pages, they get into the minute by minute experiences of the survivors of the blowout of the Macondo well and the aftermath of the disaster.

I was impressed with their ability to accurately describe the working conditions, lifestyle and politics of an offshore drilling rig. My first job after college was for one of the major drilling contractors. I spent 2 years constructing a rig and another year working on them providing engineering support. I participated in an unplanned "evacuation drill" and witnessed first hand what happens to a group of men operating in panic mode. (after this incident, a friend of mine admitted that he left a perfectly good lifeboat because (1) people were too panicky and (2) he left his cigarettes in his room and suddenly felt the need for a smoke. Plus, he saw the radio operator sitting in the lifeboat and knew that someone had to man the radios. I was one of the few who stayed on the rig. When people on another lifeboat saw me in the ballast control room as they were being lowered, somebody said they should return and get me. The response was "F 'em. We gotta go!") I lost friends when the Ocean Ranger sank. I worked at the Korean shipyard where the Horizon was built and fought the same herd of motorbikes they describe everyday. In short, this book is, in my opinion, an accurate description of offshore life and the incident. If it has any shortcomings, it's in the technical descriptions of drilling and the well design. These are highly technical subjects and difficult for someone without an engineering background to comprehend. But, it's still worth a read.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

Thanks, I'm getting low on reading material, so I'll add it to the list!