Life On A Derrick Barge

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So here I am on a derrick barge in the Ekofisk oil field, on a contract to work for 60 days in 1977. On arrival I was shown to my cabin, from memory I shared with one other guy, I can't remember his name as I didn't see much of him as we worked for 12 hours, ate our meals and slept. The food was interesting the barge was Dutch with Dutch crew on the whole, however the welders were Spanish, therefore the food was prepared by a Dutch chef,  when I ordered a steak I learned to ask for it really well done and it arrived cooked medium, perfect. I wasn't keen on the roll mop herring or other spurious looking fish dishes along the same lines. 


When we joined the barge it was finishing off piling a platform leg into the sea bed, this process was steam driven and the whole thing worked like a huge hammer that the derrick or crane positioned in place and it was a constant piling for about 3 days. At first it was difficult to sleep as this thing was working 24 hours. Everything worked 24 hours as there were two teams doing 12 hour shifts.


Our mission was to salvage a piece of pipeline that had been damaged when the line was originally laid. The damaged piece was laid to one side ready for salvage at a later date and here we are. This dive operation had to be achieved via a saturation diving system. However, we had to stop on route along side a jacket and the job was to clean the legs of the jacket, my spirits were high as this dive was using compressed air and maybe I would get a dive. The dive supervisor , it turned out had other plans and they didn't include me !! 

Once we had cleaned the jacket leg and I had got over my disappointment, we moved to out location and prepared for the saturation dive. my job was to clean and maintain dive equipment, get the dive teams food while they lived in the saturation chamber breathing a mix of Helium and Oxygen


Click here for video on saturation diving.

Saturation diving is a diving technique that allows divers to reduce the risk of decompression sickness ("the bends") when they work at great depths for long periods of time.

Decompression sickness occurs when a diver with a large amount of inert gas dissolved in the body tissues is decompressed to a pressure where the gas forms bubbles which may block blood vessels or physically damage surrounding cells. This is a risk on every decompression, and limiting the number of decompressions can reduce the risk.

"Saturation" refers to the fact that the diver's tissues have absorbed the maximum partial pressure of gas possible for that depth due to the diver being exposed to breathing gas at that pressure for prolonged periods. This is significant because once the tissues become saturated, the time to ascend from depth, to decompress safely, will not increase with further exposure.

In saturation diving, the divers live in a pressurised environment, which can be a saturation system or "saturation spread", a hyperbaric environment on the surface, or an ambient pressure underwater habitat. This may be maintained for up to several weeks, and they are decompressed to surface pressure only once, at the end of their tour of duty. By limiting the number of decompressions in this way, the risk of decompression sickness is significantly reduced.

Food and drinks were sent down to the divers via the medical lock , food was put on plastic plates and place in the medical lock, the lock was sealed and then the pressure equalised, the guys could then access what was sent down to them. No metal component's were blown down, this was to ensure that the risk of fire by a spark creating a combustion was eliminated. 


The dive bell was used to transport the dive team down to the depth they were working at. The bell would be joined to the saturation chamber at one end , the pressure equalised and the team would then move from the chamber into the bell. All the dive equipment would be in the bell. The chamber and the bell were then re sealed and the bell would part from the main chamber. The bell would then be pushed via a hydraulic system over the edge of the barge and lowered into the sea down to the depth they were working at. At the base of the bell is a large sealed door that would open inwards to the bell. The principle is the internal pressure would keep this door sealed and locked down , when the bell reached a similar depth of pressure to that inside the bell, the door would bump open and this allowed the team to lift the door up and put on their equipment breathing gas mix from the supply on the side of the bell. Then they could lower themselves into the water and move on to the project in hand.


The team worked on the salvage operation for many days they had to cut through the concrete reinforcing to get to the metal pipe, once this was achieved they then could cut through the metal using a Oxy Arc cutting system, turning the 250ft piece of bent pipe, that was around 36" or 914mm in diameter, into smaller manageable pieces to lift to the surface.

All through this operation I was doing all the jobs asked of me, food, cleaning the bell when it surfaced and help maintain the dive equipment. Finally we finished my trip after 48 days and I was ready to go home for some well earned rest or so I thought !!

If you want to follow the rest of my journey I will be posting each day, I hope you find my journey interesting please comment and share


I am now happy and fulfilled achieving my purpose, I have a property business and an online business. I have learnt to serve others ( as I hope I am doing now ) respect others for what they are trying to achieve no matter how big or small their ambition. I work on my attitude each day and look to help anyone I can on a daily basis.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, please share like or comment.


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