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In a nostalgic mood I share a friend’s notes regarding a trip he made to Bass Strait circa 1970, back when we both worked for Ingram Contractors based in Harvey, Louisiana. At that time, Ingram was installing offshore platforms and submarine pipelines for Esso – BHP and the population of Oz was about 10 million – slightly more than the population of New York City then -- 90 percent of whom lived along the eastern coast. Australia is rich in natural assets, and it was said back then that all it lacked was people. My friend wrote:

“On a subsequent trip to Australia, I rode a 65-foot crewboat across Bass Strait to our pipelaying barge, working between Australia and Tasmania. In the South Pacific, different from the Atlantic, the ratio of wave height to the period between swells was 50 to 1, and the 20- to 25-foot seas we encountered were 1000 feet apart. I was at the wheel of the crewboat, and was it fun, climbing straight up to one crest, turning hard to starboard to switchback down the other side, then hard to port to meet the next wave full in the face. The deckhand sat in the adjoining passenger compartment aft of the wheelhouse and was actively and repeatedly throwing up in a wash pan he held in his lap. I remember the Captain watched him and laughed and hollered, “Spew, you beauty”.
I stayed on the pipelaying barge out in Bass Strait for a few days, and while I was there, there were always little brown penguins on the deck. The riggers made pets of them. There were cases and cases of Modess sanitary napkins on the barge, because the divers used them as air filters in their breathing apparatus.”
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Discussion Starter #2
Time to dust the cobwebs from that shoe box full of old photos.
I’m unable to find a photograph of Ingram Derrick Barge 7 being constructed at Evans Deakin Industries, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane. I’d appreciate a picture if any members have one that can be posted. To be clear, I’m looking for pictures of INGRAM DERRICK BARGE 7 which was built circa 1969 as the yard’s hull no. 77. She became McDERMOTT DERRICK BARGE NO. 21 in November 1971 and later (sometime in 1996?) became COMANCHE for Global Industries.
This was way back in the late 1960s when a gentleman named John Bell served as shipyard manager for Evans Deakin. John himself was new to the company and very keen to book a project that could utilize more fully the steel-fabrication capacity of the shipyard and help absorb some of the fixed overheads. Consequently, when a tender was lodged with the Australian Shipbuilding Board for an offshore derrick barge for Ingram Contractors of the USA, he went after it with all of his considerable energy. The barge carried a 600 ton fully-rotating Clyde crane fixed atop a pedestal at her stern and accommodations on board for over 100 people. Overtime I came to learn that the Australian Shipbuilding Board took a great deal of convincing that this additional project could be carried out without adversely impacting already-late existing orders, but John Bell eventually won on condition that an entirely new management team and separate labor force be employed. The Ingram DB7 contract included an incentive for early delivery which Evans Deakin won. So much for the serious business.

I’ll close this post by sharing more recollections of my Ingram colleague, notes he made some 30 years after a trip to Evans Deakin related to the DB7 project. He was retired when he wrote these thoughts and in the three decades that elapsed between his trip and his memoir we both had settled down, had one step forward two steps back careers, and generally grown into 'sadder but wiser’ offshore construction hands. He’s passed now but his recounting of that trip to Australia still makes me smile.
“In January 1970, I flew from New Orleans to Brisbane, Australia, where Ingram was having a 400-foot, 600-ton capacity derrick barge built at Evans Deakin Shipyard. A total of 41 hours had elapsed from when I boarded in New Orleans until I deplaned in Brisbane, and we went immediately into meetings all day. At the end of the day, I was taken to a favorite watering hole of the shipyard people, an open air pub with lots of shade trees and a long bar. The Australians love to drink beer and they love to play bar games. After about an hour of this, I noticed a lot of cars pulling into the parking lot. Women poured into the place and sat at tables with umbrellas over them, while we continued on at the bar. After a couple more hours, I asked why we weren’t going over to ‘chat them up’, as they say down there. The reply I got was that the custom was to let them stay by themselves until a short time before the 10 p.m. closing time. By then, the women in the place would have fed themselves and spent their own money on drinks. Male chauvinism was alive and well in Australia back then, and we less-chauvinistic Yanks were very much appreciated by the Australian ‘Sheilas’.
“During one of the drinking bouts I participated in, I discovered their custom of ‘shouting a round’. This meant that, when it came around to your turn, you were to shout a round, meaning to buy a round of drinks for everyone at the table. And when someone else shouted a round, it was considered in poor form to refuse. This discipline was strongly, religiously adhered to. I was drinking rum and cokes, which were admittedly fairly small, but we drank 23 rounds at an average of 10-1/2 minutes per round. One of the men was an Australian Mormon, a teetotaler, who drank orange squash, kind of an orangeade. He was giggling so much by the end that I swore he was intoxicated on that stuff. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped with the agent at his house for a nightcap and, as we sat at the kitchen table, he told me, ‘A kitchen mate is the best kind of mate’.
“There are two kinds of kangaroos down there. The smaller, gray one is a Wallaby, and the other one is called the “big red ‘roo”. I saw a red ‘roo jump on the roof of a house on the outskirts of Brisbane.
“Melbourne is on the southeast corner, Sydney is midway up the east coast, and Brisbane is north of that. Up the coast an hour from Brisbane was a small settlement called Surfer’s Paradise, inside the Great Barrier Reef. There were very few two-story structures, apartments and such; most of the little town was made up of single story shops and restaurants. A favorite sandwich was a variety of hamburgers, many of which had fried egg included on the ground meat patty. The Tourism Board sponsored Meter Maids, long-legged, nicely-tanned, shapely ladies in skimpy bathing suits and high heels, who walked around town taking coins from a small purse on a long strap over their shoulder and depositing the coins in expired parking meters.
“I went to a game reserve in the hills west of Brisbane while I was there. As I stood there in the grass, an emu came over the hill, running at me as fast as a car. If I had known to equate emus with the mean-tempered ostriches I encountered in Kruger Park south of Capetown five years later, I would have run for my life. As it happened, the emu ran right up to me and stopped with his beak in my face. He could have taken my head off, but he was only looking for a handout. That day, I held a koala; he was as skinny as a cat, but his thick, gauzy fur made him look round. Koala, in Aborigine, means “no water”; they get this name from the fact that they subsist on eucalyptus, digesting the juice from the leaves they suck on. Eucalyptus is a form of tranquilizing narcotic, and the koala I held that day was at peace with the world.”
 

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Worked for Ingrams at Barries Beach in 1965, Head honcho was what I later found out to be a Coonass called Artis Howard, his command of the English language was less than firm, he spoke some kind of incomprehensible dialect that only repeated queries made sense. He fancied himself as a bit of a wild man and got drinking in the Welshpool pub big time, He got into a barney with a local, no doubt caused by a misunderstanding of his dialect and big mistake, he produced a knife, a big nono in those days in OZ, to stop him getting a group kicking I grabbed him and ran out the door and into his ute. My reward for saving his sorry **** was to be summarily fired by him next morning, took me a long long time to trust anyone from Louisania.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Worked for Ingrams at Barries Beach in 1965, Head honcho was what I later found out to be a Coonass called Artis Howard, his command of the English language was less than firm, he spoke some kind of incomprehensible dialect that only repeated queries made sense. He fancied himself as a bit of a wild man and got drinking in the Welshpool pub big time, He got into a barney with a local, no doubt caused by a misunderstanding of his dialect and big mistake, he produced a knife, a big nono in those days in OZ, to stop him getting a group kicking I grabbed him and ran out the door and into his ute. My reward for saving his sorry **** was to be summarily fired by him next morning, took me a long long time to trust anyone from Louisania.
I’m sorry that happened to you, I mean getting sacked after saving the guy from an ass whipping. That’s the trouble with going out for a black and tan with a supervisor after work: sometimes the guy turns out to be a two pot screaming alco, but you won’t know that until he’s off his face at 8pm and needs rescuing! The really iffy thing about that bloke, the truly sobering part of your experience, is that he was carrying a knife ... I mean, who the hell does that?!
A guy like that is meant to drink with the flies, not his mates. If one believes everything happens for a reason, then the positive take away from your anecdote is you were better off getting away from that guy. I say that because whatever peculiar mental disorder, whatever eccentricity of his personality, that it was that told the guy it made sense for him to carry a knife into a pub where he should have known he’d be the stranger, the “guest patron”, amongst a bunch of locals is the same kind of psychological blind spot that makes an otherwise normal looking bloke dangerous on the job or behind the wheel of a vehicle (or even in a poker game). It’s probably best that you left that job when you did!
By the way, do you think maybe the guy could have been working for Global Marine Australasia P/L., the company operating Glomar III, or one of Esso – BHP’s other drilling related contractors, e.g. well logging, cementing, drilling fluids, geophysical or seismic surveyors, or even a boat company (Tidewater might have been supporting drilling)? I mention that because, as far as I know, Ingram arrived in Australia in 1967 and I don’t think Transfield would be doing anything quite as early as 1965. Drilling might have been the game, it started 27 December 1964 when the drill ship Glomar III began exploration drilling on what became the Barracouta field and by mid-April 1965 Esso would have had an idea of just how lucky they were and exploration drilling would have continued with some enthusiasm for the next several years.
Cheers..
 

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I’m sorry that happened to you, I mean getting sacked after saving the guy from an ass whipping. That’s the trouble with going out for a black and tan with a supervisor after work: sometimes the guy turns out to be a two pot screaming alco, but you won’t know that until he’s off his face at 8pm and needs rescuing! The really iffy thing about that bloke, the truly sobering part of your experience, is that he was carrying a knife ... I mean, who the hell does that?!
A guy like that is meant to drink with the flies, not his mates. If one believes everything happens for a reason, then the positive take away from your anecdote is you were better off getting away from that guy. I say that because whatever peculiar mental disorder, whatever eccentricity of his personality, that it was that told the guy it made sense for him to carry a knife into a pub where he should have known he’d be the stranger, the “guest patron”, amongst a bunch of locals is the same kind of psychological blind spot that makes an otherwise normal looking bloke dangerous on the job or behind the wheel of a vehicle (or even in a poker game). It’s probably best that you left that job when you did!
By the way, do you think maybe the guy could have been working for Global Marine Australasia P/L., the company operating Glomar III, or one of Esso – BHP’s other drilling related contractors, e.g. well logging, cementing, drilling fluids, geophysical or seismic surveyors, or even a boat company (Tidewater might have been supporting drilling)? I mention that because, as far as I know, Ingram arrived in Australia in 1967 and I don’t think Transfield would be doing anything quite as early as 1965. Drilling might have been the game, it started 27 December 1964 when the drill ship Glomar III began exploration drilling on what became the Barracouta field and by mid-April 1965 Esso would have had an idea of just how lucky they were and exploration drilling would have continued with some enthusiasm for the next several years.
Cheers..
The date may be wrong,, We were building the first jackets and had just started to load out the first onto the dumb barge, Definiteiy Ingrams, maybe 1966, And some one just suggested the the knife man's name was Otis, not Artis,, goes to show how thick his accent was.
 

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The date may be wrong,, We were building the first jackets and had just started to load out the first onto the dumb barge, Definiteiy Ingrams, maybe 1966, And some one just suggested the the knife man's name was Otis, not Artis,, goes to show how thick his accent was.
March 69,, The seismic ship Western Spruce blew up near by while loading supplies including a full tanker of LOX
 

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Discussion Starter #7
March 69,, The seismic ship Western Spruce blew up near by while loading supplies including a full tanker of LOX
Yes, I understand she suffered explosions and fire on the evening of 22 March 1969 while loading or just after loading liquid oxygen from a road tanker on the wharf. Three dead and 20 injured – a real tragedy.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Yes, I understand she suffered explosions and fire on the evening of 22 March 1969 while loading or just after loading liquid oxygen from a road tanker on the wharf. Three dead and 20 injured – a real tragedy.
Article from the Canberra Times, Saturday 30 August 1969, regarding the WESTERN SPRUCE explosion. Sorry about the format ....

[newspaper article starts]
Western Spruce
explosion
finding
MELBOURNE,
— Four companies in
volved in the operation
of the survey ship
Western Spruce were
responsible for the ex
plosion which killed
three men and injured
20 others, a court of
marine inquiry found
today.
One of the men who
died was also partly to
blame, Judge Dunn said in
his findings. He said
Charles Young, 35, of
Wallace Street, Preston,
had caused liquid oxygen
to escape by using a tool
to force a valve.
The ship was rocked at
Port Welshpool on March
22 by explosions after the
oxygen mixed with the
ship's fuel.
The three men who died
were Young, Maxwell
Coon, 38, of Eisenhower
Street, East Preston, and
a South African, Ian Mee
kan.
The accident happened
after a road tanker had dis
charged 100,000 cu-ft of
liquid oxygen into a special
tank fixed to the ship's steel
deck.
During the inquiry, which
sat for 42 days, evidence
was heard from experts on
Fix this textchemicals, explosives, ship's
safety and surveyors.
The widow of Young, Mrs
Carmel Young, said after
the judgment that she did
not know what she would
do next.
"I'm leaving all that up
to the solicitors", she said.
[newspaper article ends]
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The date may be wrong,, We were building the first jackets and had just started to load out the first onto the dumb barge, Definiteiy Ingrams, maybe 1966, And some one just suggested the the knife man's name was Otis, not Artis,, goes to show how thick his accent was.
Yes, I reckon 1965 was a bit early.
I hadn’t realized the role Transfield played in the initial phase of Bass Strait development: your post made me curious and when I looked it up I found that between 1967 and 1969, Transfield fabricated five platforms at Barry Beach: Barracouta, Marlin, Halibut, Kingfish, and Kingfish B, employing up to 250 people at Barry Beach at peak periods.
I infer from some captions in an oil and gas history presentation on Transfield’s web site that Transfield’s management had mixed feelings about dealing with the Yanks. I quote:
“As usual, Transfield adopted imaginative work practices. Antonio Lupacchini, then a senior construction executive, remembers that ‘the Americans showed us how to build an oil platform (and smoke big cigars) ... and we showed them how the whole exercise could be improved’.”
They are obviously putting a positive spin on it.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Does someone know what the picture below and the one in the gallery show? The location is Bass Strait, the period is the late 1960s.
I believe the pictures show:
a) the “work barge” is INGRAM JET BARGE No. 1, completed late 1968/early 1969 as yard hull no. 48 by Adelaide Ship Construction;
b) the tugboat EILEEN B. INGRAM; and
c) the Barracouta platform.
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