I arrived on this rig - about a hundred miles west of Mauritania, in the Atlantic - a couple of afternoons ago, and since then it’s been birds, birds, birds!
Kind of. In my experience, rigs aren’t the best location to spot birds of either variety (i.e. human female or um... bird) as they’re usually big metal platforms miles into the ocean, filled with sturdy, coarse men. They’re not the place for the weaker, more-refined sex, and not the place for a flying creature, unless lost. In my last rig before this, in Nigeria, there was a girl for a few days, and I also spotted a confused-seeming bird sitting on an aerial, but these really are the exception.
But this rig is bucking all the trends as there are two – yes, two! – whole girls. Imagine my astonishment. I walked into the galley soon after arriving and two young lasses were sitting at a table, looking a little pensive, drinking coffee and talking. They must be the cleaners, I thought, but later that evening my astonishment doubled, as I chanced upon them in the wireline unit. They are real , live engineers! I had to speak to the wireline unit about an issue, so spoke to one of the girls (this is quite a thrill for a young man on a rig) and she sounded Eastern European or something, but she didn’t understand my query so passed me on to her supervisor – a man, of course.
I’ve been reeling in the shock of that experience – a female engineer! – since then, but it should be noted that I’ve not actually seen them since that day, and rather suspect they have been replaced by some Asians, as they seemed to be the wireline operators yesterday.
My third and final encounter with a bird, was of the kind my friend Kitchen Mark prefers. My friend Kitchen Mark has recently requested I instead call him “Birder Mark” but this simply isn’t going to happen. Anyway, Kitchen Mark is a notorious birdwatcher, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all birds, and he regular makes visits to cold, wet locations near Aberdeen in the hope of spotting a finch, or a gull, or whatever. Why his lovely French girlfriend, French Claire, tolerates these eccentricities, I don’t know.
Anyway, this bird was hovering rather low above the helideck today. It kept craning its neck and pointing its beak down, as if ready to plunge down and spear a fish. It did a little swooping, some gliding and some coasting, but never managed a full plunge and so I never saw a kingfisher-style fish-execution – rather a pity. But I didn’t find its presence rather unnerving, as the beak looked very pointy and sharp, and the menacing way it was hovering hinted at the threat that the bird – in the absence of fish – might plunge down and try and spear me. These things can happen. Now, truth be told, if I had to die then I think being speared through the skull by a pointy-beaked bird on a rig near Mauritania would be quite a memorable way to die, but I am only 28 and aren’t quite ready for that fate yet. So after a short while of warily observing this pest's movements I became too afraid and scampered off inside.
I did however capture the bird in a few photos, on my recently bought digital camera I’m still trying to figure out. And so I include a picture of the bird here:
I would like also to put my friend Kitchen Mark to the test. Marky, what is this bird? This is a test of two things:
1. Does Kitchen Mark know as much about birds as he makes out he does?
2. Does Kitchen Mark read this blog?
My own feelings are that it is a Oceanic Thrust Swift.
I suspect this thrilling start to this rig might ease off a little now, as I can barely imagine it reaching new heights. My beating heart can settle and I can get on with my real job of drinking coffee, gorging myself and of course, sleeping very soundly. It’s a tough life!