Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Field Work in Angola: Part 3

Helicopters!

Taking off!

Finally after much fussing about with airports and stubborn bureaucracies it was finally time to head offshore to the inspection vessel 'Ocean Interceptor III' which would be our base of operations for all the servicing and data downloading we had to get done. This was particularly cool for two reasons: firstly, because we were finally able to start getting the work done that we'd gone all the way to Angola to do and secondly because I got to take my first ever trip in a helicopter! I must admit I was pretty nervous about it before taking off; not because of any fear of flying per se, but because before you're allowed to fly offshore with the oil industry you have to complete your 'Helicopter Underwater Escape Training' which involves being dunked repeatedly into a swimming pool in a fake helicopter and spun upside down a lot. So I was probably excessively concerned that that was a frequent way for helicopter flights to end.


A floating, semi-submersible rig.
The 'FPSO' ship, where all the oil gets pumped up to before being moved elsewhere for storage. 

Fortunately (obviously), we didn't crash into the sea. Even better than that, I'm also pretty sure that helicopter flights should be the default method of transportation for more or less much everything. It's an awesome way to travel, and was a brilliant way to get a different perspective on Luanda itself and the offshore oil fields.

Once we arrived on the rig, my two colleagues almost immediately set to servicing the modules so they could be recycled within the week and installed back in the DELOS platforms before we flew back to the mainland. I'm not an electrical engineer, so couldn't be much help without getting under their feet all the time, so I spent most of my time working through the data as it was downloaded. Happily it seems like all the technical issues we struggled with during the early deployments are now sorted out and I've got a decent set of data to work with, and plenty of fish to count!

Some fish spotted by the DELOS observatories

There wasn't a massive amount of wildlife out there, which isn't too surprising, but we did see a lot of fish which I wasn't expecting! I guess they were attracted to the ship, but we had large groups of jacks and yellowfin tuna (which are huuuuge!) circling the ship whenever we stopped as well as the odd shark! Manta rays made occasional appearances around the underwater platform structures which we got glimpses of from the ROVs, and we saw a good few groups of passing dolphins and whales as well (though nothing close enough to photograph).

Some of the deck crews working on the inspection ROV.

Finally, after a short week on the ship it was time to head back to shore again and then home. I'm still not entirely sure what to make of the trip overall - Angola is obviously benefiting greatly in some ways from the wealth it's gained from the offshore oil reserves, but the majority of people in the country are obviously still extremely poor. But as with anything, it's pretty difficult to make too many judgments on
a place you've only really experienced from the inside of hotels and taxis! It's probably easiest to let the photographs speak for themselves.

A street market taking place in a part of Luanda's sprawling residential area

One of Luanda's docks from the helicopter

Downtown Luanda