Offshore in the Gulf of Papua

Offshore in the Gulf of Papua

What a difference a year makes. I started this blog when I first joined Twinza Oil, and one year into the adventure our project is really starting to take shape. We’ve submitted our development application and work is progressing at an ever-accelerating pace. At the start of November I was able to head offshore for the first time to oversee some investigative work we are conducting.

Finding My Sea Legs

It’s safe to say that I’m more of a ‘mountain’ person than a ‘beach’ person. When I was younger I tried windsurfing and rock climbing, and it was the latter that developed into an obsession. Truth be told, boats and me just don’t seem to get on. So it was with some trepidation that I boarded the Surveyor for what would be about a week at sea. She’s a smallish vessel, about 28 metres long, and whilst perfect for our planned operations, I was led to believe that she would move around a bit. There were ominous signs brewing when I noted that I could feel the boat rocking whilst we were tied up at the quayside.

I was given some very useful advice before our departure, “if you’re going to be sick head for the leeward side”. My confused looks were answered with an explanation that it is the opposite side to the windward side, in other words the side that the wind is not coming from. Clearly the wind blowing the contents of your stomach back onto you is not desirable. At least I would have some bright orange overalls to protect me!

Erick and Peter ready to depart for the Gulf of Papua
Erick and Peter ready to depart for the Gulf of Papua.

Did I make it? Heck no! The trip out to location was reasonably steady, but as soon as we arrived and started drifting, the vessel started to roll around. I think I lasted a couple of hours before a trip to the leeward side was necessary, and it was a similar story the next morning. Thankfully the weather got better throughout the trip and the calm seas helped me to find my sea legs. Eventually I grew accustomed to the rolling of the boat, and I’m even able to now type this blog post whilst rolling around in the dark.

The Beauty Of Emptyness

It is a strange disorienting sensation when all around you is an empty horizon. With no discerning features in any direction, there is a great feeling of loneliness. In the Gulf of Papua the weather, particularly the wind and waves, and the movement of the sun throughout the day, become your companions. As we were working during the available daylight hours, dawn and dusk were there to signal the shift between work-time and rest-time. Waking up to a gently warming glow over a calm ocean is rather comforting. You know the day will be good.

Dawn over the Gulf of Papua
Dawn over the Gulf of Papua.

Fortunately the days pass by as there is always something going on with our work programme, and the crew on the Surveyor are always willing to lend a hand and make our stay as comfortable as possible. Towards the end of the day we are able to wind down, and watch the sun going down, drinking our imaginary beers (no alcohol allowed on board).

Admiring the sunset from the bridge of the Surveyor
Admiring the sunset from the bridge of the Surveyor.

As the weather calmed down, the inquisitive side of me eventually won over. What is it like to swim in the middle of nowhere? I had brought my swimmers and goggles with me, and on the first day that the sea swells were not too high, I took the opportunity for a dip. The seabed at the Pasca A field location lies in about 90 metres water depth, with crystal clear water. I was hoping to be able to see the seafloor as I swam around surrounded by miles of water. As soon as I ducked down under the water, the reality hit me. I’m in the middle of the ocean, I can’t see the bottom, and… what are all those jellyfish doing?

Needless to say it was a very short dip!

Broadened Horizons

I recently turned 40, and it’s pleasing to note that there are still many new experiences in life to be had. Whilst boats and myself are still not on first name terms, I’ve come away with a new found respect for mariners; I didn’t see anything vaguely approaching a rough sea and I can safely say that I have no desire to. However, I did allow myself the contemplative thought as I looked out over the ocean at our field location, that one day we will have installed a platform producing gas for PNG in this very place. A place where I have both been sick, and then subsequently swum in the waters. Something I am sure no-one else has ever been so stupid to attempt in the middle of the Gulf of Papua.