For fishermen. Mobile Drilling Platform No.1 is a fine place to work. Set down in the Arabian Gulf, its three great steel legs sunk deep in the bottom, it offers possibilities that would excite the most phlegmatic of anglers. If they had a mind to, for example, workers could go fishing before breakfast, or just seconds after work. They could enliven their lunch break by dropping a line down into the blue waters of the Gulf and hauling in a hammur, a shannad, a blue marlin or even a fighting barracuda.
The purpose of Mobile Drilling Platform No.1, of course, is rather more serious than fishing. It is there to put an Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) drill into the bottom of the Arabian Gulf and, hopefully, find petroleum. That's not a task that is accomplished easily. It requires hard work and long hours in sometimes sweltering heat (120°F) and debilitating humidity (100 per cent). Night and day, right around the clock, the ship and the adjacent platform echo to the whir of generators, blowers and pumps. Her topside decks are loaded to the scuppers with pipe, casing, drilling mud and other materials for the 24-hour drilling operation. At any' time, the calm breezes of the Gulf can change within minutes into raging gales that raise 12-foot waves and send them crashing against the sturdy legs of the platform—at which time the crew of the tender must rapidly cast off and flee.
Yet the approximately 50 men aboard Mobile Drilling Platform No.1—45 of whom are Saudi Arabs—rarely complain. Life aboard, they find, is good.
For one thing, men on the tender have seven days off every third week, compensation for an unbroken two-week work stint. There is a certain freedom from the routine of shore work. And there are, besides, all the amenities available nearly anywhere else.
The tender, in the first place, is air-conditioned, no minor convenience during summer months. It has a six-cook staff in the commodious galley of the tender, which maintains the ship's reputation as a "good eatin' ship." Walk-in chill and deep-freeze compartments assure a steady supply of choice meats and produce. The offshore drilling crews also derive all the benefits of the increasingly varied harvests of vegetables and fruits which come out of eastern Saudi Arabian oases. All food served is plentiful—and free.
In the drilling tender's recreation lounge a central fixture is the big-screen television receiver that can pick up with ease the all-Arabic-language programs put on the air over Channel 2 from Dhahran. The tender is also on the company's movie circuit; men aboard can watch 16-mm versions of the same feature films in the same sequence as are shown in the Aramco operating centers ashore.
But most of the men aboard have been working on a succession of drilling sites in remote areas ashore and afloat 15 years or more. And, as resourceful veterans, they refuse to depend entirely on electronic or canned entertainment for their off-duty recreation. Some play dominoes, many fish, others read books from the tender's well-stocked library, and all, at one time or another, follow a tradition among seamen the world around—sitting over innumerable cups of coffee and spinning yarns. "In fact," one man said, " the two weeks out here on the rig are great; what to do with the week ashore is the problem."
W. Vernon Tietjen is a former reporter and feature writer who worked for the New York Herald Tribune and the old St. Louis Star-Times before joining Aramco's Public Relations staff in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.