Back ] Home ] Next ]

(Click image for full gallery)

Australia 1981-82 - Party 247

I came to Australia from the fleshpots of Thailand in spring 1981, I think, naively expecting it to be hot. It wasn't. The crew was based in Mount Gambier when I arrived, with Dave Coley as PC, and all I can remember is playing Pacman in a local cafe. I was sent there as a computer (seismologist), and eventually ended up being acting PC when Dave's replacement, Charles Wheatcroft, was on leave.

As winter approached we started moving north, via jobs in Mildura and Menindee (this latter one was for a bizarre company that reckoned it could sniff oil from a plane). I remember little of these jobs, and most of the photos here are from the later jobs in the Cooper Basin.  I do remember one day in Mildura when the vib mech Jamie entered one of the Birdwagens into a local tractor-pulling contest, where it won hands-down in top gear. In the 'civilised' areas, base camp was usually in motels or hotels. In Menindee we stayed in the famous Menindee Hotel before it burned down (no, it wasn't our fault).

Other 'highlights' of Australia were numerous and frequent late night 'incidents', usually involving drunken labourers and/or Phil Takuta ( a huge Maori) and Ian Salter ('Salty'), both vib operators. I remember on one glorious occasion being woken by Phil to be told 'come quick, someone's just driven a Bedford through the camp'. I didn't realise he meant it literally - a drunken labourer had driven a Bedford straight through the compound and over the camp fire, scattering all the late night drinkers.

Drink - or the lack of it - was a perennial problem: the food trucks would arrive filled with what seemed like hundreds of cases of beer, which would disappear in a week or less. Many people rarely got to bed before it was nearly time to get up again. Including me. I blame the heat. Whenever we were within striking distance of a pub (say, 2-3 hours..), such as the Innamincka Inn, pub nights would be organised. I wish I'd taken some pics of those...

We worked 3 weeks on and 1 week off in Adelaide while we were in the Cooper Basin, which was about all you could take in the wonderful camp conditions - the trailers were falling apart, the tents were like ovens. But we had some great times - jams in the survey caravan with Tim Badley and Dave Coley stick in my mind - somewhere I've a recording of one...

The worst thing that happened out there was when one of the mechanics, Dave Bearne, was severely burned on a camp move when the knackered old petrol Bedford R-type workshop backfired on him through the carburettor. He was lucky to survive, but eventually returned to SSL as an administrator in Libya, if I recall correctly.

I left Australia in early 1982 for Libya, having had to sell my most treasured possession - a lovely Mk II Morris Cooper (once owned by Gordon Bubb, I think!).

The crew

Perhaps it was the alcohol, but I remember very few names...

Keith 'life wasn't meant to be easy' Potts - manager, Adelaide

Charles Wheatcroft - PC

Dave Coley - Aussie PC

Tim Badley - Surveyor and troubadour

Tony Jackson - Surveyor

Dave Wilson - Surveyor

Geoff Charlston - LVL Shooter

Steve Fisi - LVL assistant

Joe Fisi - LVL assistant

Jamie Timbrell - Mechanic

Dave Bearne - Mechanic

Frank (?) Mad Canadian bird-dog