Drilling deep for photo memories

A Watercraft 50-man lifeboat is winched up to the deck of the new offshore survival training platfor

A Watercraft 50-man lifeboat is winched up to the deck of the new offshore survival training platform. A Whittaker 28-man capsule waits to be lifted during a demonstration at the opening of the platform at Lowestoft in 1980. Photo: EDP Library - Credit: Archant

In my archive column this week I focus on oil and gas, the earliest deposits of which were found locally in the mid-60s, leading to an industry which has been a prominent feature of the local economy over the years.

1) The drilling rig Glomar IV is the subject of our first photo. Pictured in April 1965, the Glomar (belonging to Gulf Oil) was drilling 50 miles east of Great Yarmouth and was one of three rigs searching for oil off the Norfolk coast, the other two being the North Star (Phillips Petroleum) and the Conoco 1 (Continental Oil).

2) Our photographer took this aerial shot in late 1965 of the drilling process aboard Shell UK's exploration and production rig Neptune 1, some 65 miles out in the North Sea north-east of Lowestoft. Looking, according to our report of the time, not unlike the decapitated head of a seaside pier, it was manned by a crew of 46, including Dutch, French and British. To keep the drill head turning was costing around £6,000 a day, even though no oil had yet been discovered.


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3) The drilling rig North Star was about 20 miles off Sea Palling, the nearest rig to the Norfolk coast, when our photographer took this shot from a helicopter in June 1966.

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4) Another aerial shot next, this time of North Sea gas pipes being unloaded from the motor ship Yewarch at Yarmouth Warehousing Company's East Quay in late 1966. The pipes, after coating, formed part of the Shell-Esso pipeline running out to the gasfield 35 miles north-east of Yarmouth.

5) A close-up of the giant steel pipes which were made in Germany and France. The shipments from Rotterdam to Yarmouth comprised 17,000 tons in all.

6) The Duke of Edinburgh visited Bacton gas installations in June 1969. Our photo records the visit, with the Duke talking to various officials at the site. If readers can identify any of the men, please let me know.

7) Later in the same year, attention was focused on a drilling platform between Syderstone and South Creake. A 2,500 foot exploration well had been dug on the edge of a cornfield, part of Weasenham Farms Ltd, on behalf of British Petroleum who hoped to find oil or gas deposits. Drilling crews were working round the clock; in our photo they are letting in a section of drill pipe.

8) The barge Gulf Fleet 290, complete with two oil pump packages destined for a pumping platform in the Ekofisk field off Teesside, arrives at Yarmouth harbour in 1977 after her journey across the Atlantic from Houston, Texas. Towing the barge was the tug Gulf Duke, and aft was another tug, Miss Lynn. The Yarmouth port tug, Hector Reed, helped. The packages would pump oil for Phillips Petroleum along the 34-inch pipeline to Teesside.

9) A Shell/Esso gas rig platform is almost ready in April 1978, after months of engineering and electrical work at Lowestoft, to move out to the Indefatigable Bank off Bacton.

10) A Watercraft 50-man lifeboat is winched up to the deck of the new offshore survival training platform. A Whittaker 28-man capsule waits to be lifted during a demonstration at the opening of the platform at Lowestoft in 1980.

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