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Lessons of Darkness

This is 54 minute film that very few people have likely seen. Give it a chance, make yourself a drink, stay with it... you will not be disappointed.

Photo by my dear friend, Dave Wilson, with ABB Vetco Gray; Kuwait 1991

Here is no water but only rock

Rock and no water and the sandy road...

Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit There is not even silence in the mountains But dry sterile thunder without rain...

T.S. Elliot; The Waste Land


I want to thank my buddy Mike Darren for reminding me of this film; I had forgotten about it. Mike's step father was Joe Carpenter, whom I have written about numerous times on OilyStuffBlog; here, for instance.

This film, of the Kuwait oil wells fires in 1991, was produced and directed by a German named, Warner Herzog and was shot in 16 MM format. It has some Safety Boss (Canada) footage in it but Boots and Coots got top billing. There are good scenes of David Thompson loading a shot drum, of the late Martin Kelly, of Joe Carpenter, Wayne Lansford, and many others you won't know but are awesome men you would want to hang with any chance you got. Herzog and his cameraman, Paul Berriff, were ballsy with their cameras, got up-close and personal on many occasions and if you want to get a good feel for what its like to work in the well control business, anywhere, watch this.

Its a beautifully stunning film, with little narrative, set to amazing music including the likes of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner Herzog was once quoted as saying his intent was to film this event in Kuwait in such a manner as to make it all not seem, "earthly." Its dark, and a little melodramatic, and Herzog got some grief over it. At the films premier in Berlin it was booed because some thought it glorified war.

People have cut this film all up into pieces and hacked to to death on YouTube. You must watch the entire film to understand why it won many awards for documentaries in 1992 and why the Los Angeles Times called it one of the most memorable documentaries of the year. Its 50 minutes, perfect over before-daylight coffee or with a double scotch.

In the well control business there is an old adage about everybody in the oilfield wanting to be in well control at some point... until its actually time to do well control work. This is very true and this film might give you idea of why. Its like this.

I am blessed to have worked on a big fire with Martin, Joe and Danny Strong in West Texas when I was with Boots and Coots, Inc. many years ago. There were only eight of us with the company then, including the jefes; we are all pretty close.

Two months later Martin, Joe and Danny were killed on a job for Shell, in Syria. They skidded the rig, capped the big son of a bitch, put it on diverter at 60K BOPD and watched it for a week. The morning that Shell released them they went down to the well one more time to check to see that things were still OK. With them under the capping assembly it fell over, caught fire, and they were gone.


Martin, Joe, Danny; I think about you hard asses all the time. I miss you guys.



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