Hands Against the Sea - A New Direction

 Hands Against The Sea

It was a cool and windy morning on the Inter-Coastal dock. The atmosphere was quite unusual for a summer day in South Louisiana. I noticed the seas were a little rough as I stepped onto the work boat. The boat was crowded with roughnecks, operators, and worms. They were a rude crude bunch-- dirty, nasty, chewing tobacco while smoking cigarettes. The boat also smelled like Jim Beam. There were sometimes, a few exceptions: various technicians and clerical workers. On this day, the secretary was a 400 pound man with a pee stained shirt, and rainbow suspenders. He used his belly rolls as pockets. Due to the insanity, smell, and rocking of the boat in the choppy waters, I tried, but could not go to sleep. Two hours later, I was still awake with two more hours to go. The hours passed, slowly. We finally arrived at the rig. The captain engaged his reverse engines and threw everyone who was asleep out of their seats and onto the floor. It was, by far, the funniest part of that long, soul-shaking, day.

I grabbed my bags and stepped out of the crew-boat into a small rope basket. As I watched the dolphins in the near distance, I could think of nothing else but how stupid we must look to them. “Stupid humans, willingly getting caught,” the dolphins must say. I held on for dear life as the crane hoisted us two-hundred feet onto the platform. The platform was a huge elevated structure in which all the operations of the rig were performed. When I stepped out of the net, and onto the platform, the noise was almost unbearable. The cranes were swirling, the roughnecks were swearing, and the drilling caused a high pitched scream every two minutes. After I signed in, I walk into the offices attached to the platform. I started my debriefing with Blackie, a seventy year old rude and senile man, who is the head of the rigs operations. Blackie explained at the computer in his office, “ I don't know what happened, after the storm I can't even get on the Internet. I haven't been able to watch porn in two days. Fix it then come back and tell me.”

I took a look at the computer, but I knew what the problem was just from his description. My job is an industrial electronics technician. I deal with explosive environments and power, which is not the safest job in the world. The problem is above, it is the satellite dish. Sometimes, the bolts loosen from the strong force of the wind, and the satellite gets knocked out of place. I laced up my steel toe Chuck Taylors and put on my Dickies' book-sack that I modified into a tool bag. I tied all of my tools that were loose to my bag then jumped into my safety harness. The harness was quite uncomfortable. It grabbed, pinched, and twisted the most sensitive parts of my body. I picked up a small blue-tooth radio from the secretary along with some new earplugs. I double checked to make sure I had my laptop, wrenches ,and pretty much everything I needed, before I began my three hour long ascent to the satellite.



The communications satellite sits upon a few hundred foot tower that is attached to the platform. It is the highest point of an offshore rig besides the flashing beacon. That is were I was headed. I stepped outside the semi quiet office and back onto the outrageously loud platform. I placed my earplugs in my ears. It took away the noise, and one of my senses. I begun to feel all of the intense vibrations under my feet. I felt wind against my skin that seemed non-existent two seconds before. What I noticed the most was that I could clearly hear every thought in my head. It was as if I was talking to myself out loud. The clarity of my thoughts could have pierced through Kevlar. Before I began my climb to the satellite, I stepped back and took another look at it. The climb would only take about 30 minutes, but safety regulations state that if a person is more than eight feet off the ground, then the person must be secured by tether at, at least, one point at all times. So the thirty minute climb last three hours. I put on my no-slip gloves and turned my radio on vibrate. I put on my hard hat, like it would matter if I fell from that height. I finally, placed my bottle of water into the outside pocket of my book-sack. I grabbed onto the aluminum alloy tower and began climbing. I went two rungs up and attach my first tether. I went up two more, and attached my other tether, then, reached down to undo my first tether. I went up two more rungs, and repeated. After a million and one thoughts and a very long time, I felt some small and faint vibrations. I attached both of my tethers and checked my radio. There was no call. I blew it off, and blamed it on the swaying of the tower. I continued to feel the vibrations for the duration of the climb. Finally, I reached the top.

It seemed as if the whole world was water, because it was all I saw 360 degrees around me. The world looked like a beautiful sapphire, illuminated and opalescent. I took a deep breath of the refreshing cool air. I unplugged the beacon, because the flashing hurt my eyes. I straddled the tower with my legs and made sure my tethers were secure. I leaned back, swinging my book-sack to the front, and attached it to the tower. I pulled out my laptop and began to boot. Then suddenly, I felt a vibration that made my bones resonate, followed by.. Vaavoom!!! A strong metallic crack came from below. I looked down to the surface of the sea. A huge brown, rust-colored, blob had formed around the the rig's base.

I knew what it was. It happened all of the time, and yet, I was still amazed. The blob, was something called drillers mud, which is not mud at all. It is a mixture of chemical compounds, which can eat through stainless steel. The mud is used as a lubricant to drill through the earths layers. It amazed me because I have never seen a breech this large, from this vantage point. A breech in the underwater pipe is supposed to be contained immediately but never does. The brown puss like substance grew rapidly, tripling in size in a matter of seconds. It drove the dolphins away, fast. It killed several fish instantly. The fish looked like little slivers of light, stuck in a brown abysmal black hole from where I stood. An opportunistic bird swept down to retrieve a free meal and landed on top of the blob. His wings got stuck. Every flap was drawing him a little closer to his imminent grave. Out of nowhere a very large fish darted out of the water. It grabbed the bird with its large mouth and landed back on the blob with a thud. He could no longer use his velocity to sheer through the mud. His fate was the same as the birds he devoured.


I was shocked by the things that I saw. They almost seemed unreal. I had forgotten that I had to fix the satellite that I was straddled onto, so I got to work. I repaired the satellite and radioed down to the secretary. With a mouth full of food he said, “Good chob, theers a storm comin' from the schouf. You migh wanna' git down.” As I started my descent nothing felt right. I didn't feel good about myself. I am an organic eating, recycling, tree hugger. What was I doing here? Did I want to contribute to the fall of our world? Did I want to tell my son that I was a part of this devastation? The rest of my climb was eerie. No other thoughts ran through my head. It seemed as if I was in a parallel universe. I didn't even remember climbing down. The next thing that I remembered was that I was in the office getting Blackie to sign my paperwork. He was already watching porn. He said, “O.K., get out, choppers waiting.”


The sun was setting. Beautiful oranges, yellows, and reds filled the entire sky. The sky's reflection was equally as beautiful in the ocean. But, like a scratch on my favorite C.D.- Micheal Franti- Songs From The Front Porch, the ocean was just not right. There were two to three hundred oil rigs littering the sea. As we passed over the rigs, I saw the same brown blobs, engulfing each and every rig that we passed over. They were destroying a masterpiece, like red paint splattered on Vincent Van Gogh's- Starry Night. I was staring out of the window as we approached the coast. I saw the school of dolphins that were at the rig. The cute little baby dolphin that was falling a little behind. That dolphin gave me the answers that I have been pondering about since the blob. I knew what I was going to do. The ocean had touched my soul and given me hope for tomorrow. I was once again happy, and looking forward to a new future.