Our Story: Kip McKeever

Kip McKeever (far left orange covvies) visits Norwegian engineers who worked for Phillips Petroleum on board the Sedco Phillips SS rig.

In 1965, I was living in Calgary and working at a steel fabrication plant. At the end of the week, the scenario was always the same. After work on Friday, I would stop by the bank and cash my weekly paycheque. Then home to change out of work clothes and pay my mom room and board money before heading downtown to meet friends at our favourite bar for beers.

On one particular Friday, my girlfriend brought one of her co-workers along for beers with the group. Somewhere along in the evening, my girlfriend’s coworker began telling about a contract her father had gotten with a large Texas offshore drilling company to hire Canadians with some oilfield experience to be sent to work overseas. I had spent a summer working for Amoco in Drayton Valley and the thought of working overseas really appealed to me. The next day, I contacted the workover rig company that was hiring for overseas work, and at their urging, went by their office and filled out an application.

Well, a lot of Fridays went by in their usual fashion and I had more or less forgotten about all of it, when to my surprise I got a call from the Texas drilling company’s personnel manager wanting to know if I would be interested in working in the Persian Gulf. “Sure,” was my response. I subsequently sent them my passport so they could get it stamped with the required visa. A week or so went by, then I got another call from the personnel manager who said they need me right away to work on a new rig being built in Hiroshima, Japan. Of course, I thought that was great.

I quit my job and the next day went to the hospital to get the seven immunization shots required, four in one shoulder and three in the other. The next day they both were swollen and burning.

McKeever snapped this picture as a Sedco Phillips SS offshore rig was brought into the sheltered waters of a fjord near Stavanger, Norway for its annual inspection.

Because of their hurry to send me to Japan, my employers had arranged for me to pick up plane tickets at the airport in Calgary with a connecting flight in Vancouver. But, they had sent my passport to the Japanese consulate in Vancouver as there was not one in Calgary. I had just barely enough time to leave the airport, catch a cab to the consulate, do the paperwork, get my passport, and taxi back to the airport.

It was a long flight to Tokyo, then a wait period for my flight to Hiroshima. I arrived late in the evening expecting someone to be there to meet me. There was no one and they were closing the airport terminal for the evening. I was on the last arriving flight for the day. I resisted leaving the terminal. Unfortunately, no one there spoke English. All I knew was the shipyard name where the rig was being built. I kept saying to those trying to get me to leave: “Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.” Eventually through hand signals, I got the message that someone was coming.

A short time later, the company project engineer met me and told me they had not been advised that I was being sent to them. We went then for something to eat which turned out to be noodle soup, eaten with chopsticks. My hand was getting pretty tired by the time I had wrestled with all of the slippery noodles.

Welcome to the offshore drilling industry. Lesson number 1. be prepared to take care of your own ass as the industry is not in the travel or personal relations  business.

Submitted by Kip McKeever, recently retired drilling engineer living in Washington State.