Aug 1st 1974.

Dear Folks,
  I wrote a couple of weeks ago, though I haven’t heard back from you yet. However, I said in my other letter that they want me to be Field Instrument Supervisor as well as ComMand engineer, which means I’ll be spending most of the next few months in the field. So letters take 10-14 days to go out or in, instead of 3-4 days.
  As well as the field crews out here (Ray-1, Ray-2 and Ray-3), there are a couple of drilling rigs too, set up by Tenneco, the company to whom we’re contracted. I went to Ray-2 first, on the old bone-shaking 30-year old DC-3; I’ve flown between the crews a hell of a lot (on light aircraft), sometimes visiting two or three crews in one day. Sometimes the pilots let me fly now: just recently, Grey, the pilot, handed over the controls to me—I was in the co-pilot’s seat—said, “Okay, you want to fly her?” and started reading a book. It was quite tricky because of high cross-winds and sandstorms, but I did fine, and brought the aircraft right into the glide-path for the landing-strip. Even then I had to nudge the pilot and give him back the controls. I thought I’d better not try a landing, because you only have to make one mistake and that’s your lot. Well, I guess he’ll let me fly again anyway. It was strange, I remembered all the things I’d learnt when I was a kid and had the spare room at home fitted out like a cockpit, and I was reading all those books on how to fly.

  It’s pretty rough living out in the bush. The local people are mainly goat-herds, who live today pretty much as they did two thousand years ago. It’s really hostile country, and we have to drill water-wells as we go along, because of the terrible drought. When the crew moves down the line, we leave the water-wells for the locals. Disease and malnutrition kills off a lot of them, though.

  I went to a party given by one of the head-men in his tukul. Tukuls are houses, made of sun-dried mud and thatch. Dinner was by candle-light—no electricity or running water, of course—and I had no idea what I was eating; however I’m still alive. He gave us all a gift when we left: I was given and egg-cup and fork. Good souvenir. We all got drunk on local beer and wine, and made daft speeches saying how great the Ethiopian people were, and then our host made a speech (all done through an interpreter) saying how great Geosource were. Then we all got drunker, and there was a display of sword-fighting. Actually, I’m not sure whether it was a display or two of the local guys settling an argument. I don’t think anyone got killed though. And then we got even drunker and made more speeches, and some people played music on local instruments. And then a bunch of girls materialised and we started dancing. Eventually most of us made it back to camp. Quite a good evening.

  Some crews are better set up than others. Ray-2 is pretty good; no sanitation, but there’s an awful lot of bush. Ray-1 base camp is only partly working, Ray-3 is just tents, only hand-operated pumps or buckets for washing. So you can get very dirty and very hot ten minutes after arriving, and stay that way.

  This is now being written from a drilling rig in the middle of nowhere. There are three field crews here in south-east Ethiopia, as I said, each crew having a lot of expensive computerised equipment. The tapes made out here go to Addis where the ComMand processes them, and says “drill here”. Then they set up a drilling rig (just like the ones you’ve seen on T.V. in the North Sea, except on land), and we drill. The rig I’m on now has so far drilled to 13,500 ft, or about 2½ miles straight down. Anyway, all this lot, plus the field crews and the ComMand centres in Addis and Mogadishu, are my responsibility.

  So, I’ve been busy. Hope to be back in Addis about the 15th or 16th, but probably only for a week or so. They’ll be paying me a lot more for doing all this, and anyway out here food, accommodation, etc., is all free, so you can’t spend any money. I’ve written before what it’s like out here. Lots of sand and dead bushes. Also this is the season for very strong hot winds. It’s like working in a permanent sandstorm.

  Right now we’re using dynamite to make tests on the well. I should be finished about midday tomorrow (start work at 5 a.m.), when I’ll fly to Ray-3. I’ve been dodging all over south-east Ethiopia in the last three weeks, flying in light aircraft.

  Dynamite is fun to play with. It makes a bang and then a crump like you see on T.V. news of Northern Ireland. However, it’s a little bit nerve-wracking. I spent this afternoon setting a charge of 100 lb, which is a very big bang, and trying to prime dynamite in the middle of a sandstorm with the sun blazing down, and your mouth, eyes and ears full of dust is no fun. Still, it’s all new experience, and I’m learning fast about the oil business.

  I think I might have to decide whether to live in my flat or a hotel when I’m in Addis. I’d prefer my flat, but the time I’m able to spend there may not justify the cost. Though money, of course, is the least of my worries.

  This rig is very well set-up. Proper showers and toilets, and air-conditioning in all rooms, movies every night, excellent food and recreation facilities. No beer though, too dangerous on a rig. Not that that worries me. When I get back to Addis I’ll have a wild night or two.

  Paignton I guess is pretty hectic now. Write back straight away—even if I don’t get the letters till September. I’ll be so busy now that time will fly and Christmas will be here in no time. Anyway, so long for now,

  Love David.