Monday, July 25, 2011

Oh a Sailor's Life...!

My first assignment this hitch:
Turtle Watch

It's exactly what it sounds like.  I was quite literally looking for turtles.
They sent me to a derrick barge where I remained for 5 days and 4 nights.  This was my first experience with Remain Over-Night (RON) offshore, and let me tell ya... wasn't bad.

Put your laundry out every night, they clean, fold, and hang it outside your door (that blue bag is clean laundry)...

...lots of (steep) steps everywhere, lots of exercise, and a galley with good food...

...and plenty of life boats for all!  (That's what's in those white barrels - life boats.  They're rigged so that you just unpin them, kick 'em off, and as they sink the pressure forces them to open and inflate and float up to the surface.  Comforting to know they won't break on the way down, isn't it?)

And pretty weather.

So here's what happens:
  1. Oil company brings out a rig and drills for oil.
  2. Oil is found.
  3. Oil company sets up a production platform around the new well.  The platform is anchored by legs planted, oh, 20+ feet below the ocean floor.
  4. Platform is manned (or may remain unmanned but monitored) and (hopefully) producing oil 24/7, 365 days/year.  Unless there's a hurricane.
  5. Eventually (maybe decades later), oil dries up.
  6. Platform needs to be got rid of.
  7. Big barge comes out to blow it out of the water.
  8. NOAA comes out to make sure the big barge doesn't also blow away a lot of endangered species.

And that's why I was there.

First they "jet" the legs.  This was delay #1:

Ok, that big yellow crane there?  It hoists 800 TONS.  It goes much higher than the picture shows, actually.  Right here, it's pumping mud and water out of one of the legs of the platform we're getting rid of so that we can drop explosives allllllll the way down the length of the leg to a point below the ocean floor.

I guess this is the pump resting?  They worked on this the whole night that first night I was there.  Anyway, that's the remainder of the platform we were working on.

Then they dropped explosives down into the legs.

And then we spotted dolphins.

Dolphins, while not turtles, are on the "Do Not Kill" list.  So once spotted, we have to stand down for 30 minutes from the last time they were seen.  After waiting, we take off in the helicopter and circle for 45 minutes.  If we don't see anything (and we didn't), we green light the explosives.  They blow the legs.  We fly around for another 30 minutes to make sure no turtles (or dolphins) were harmed.  And then...

 ...they hook it up to that ginormous crane...

 ...and haul it up...

...out of the water.

Neat, huh?  This platform was prepped by welders (I'm not sure how), then dragged over to an approved area, laid on its side, and will become a man-made reef.  It's already covered with algae, and apparently a lot of red snapper were living there (about 800 were killed in the blast...they were gathered up afterwards).  See the length of the barge?  That platform's legs were about the same length.  It's not a deep Gulf of Mexico, y'all.  The big white section on the right is where my helicopter parked, and we lived underneath.

. . .

And then I copied the NOAA girl's awkward-length-bangs hairstyle:

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