This quarter I had the opportunity to interview Bruce Calderbank. Bruce has over thirty-seven years of worldwide offshore experience under his belt and when not out on the open seas lives with his wife in Alberta, Canada. So having met Bruce on transit through Reading to his home, after a genealogy fact-finding holiday in the UK I asked him about his past, present and future in the seismic navigation business;

VL: How did you get into seismic navigation quality control?

BC: In late 1980 I was an employee of Hunting Surveys in the UK when an international client requested a navigation client representative (Nav QC) with at least a degree in surveying. Having obtained a Bachelor of Surveying from the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia and in 1977 and a diploma in Hydrographic Surveying from Plymouth Polytechnic in 1980, I met the educational requirements and was given the job. The 2D seismic survey extended along almost the entire Nigerian coast and Syledis radio positioning was used throughout. I was then employed by Geodetic and Construction Surveys in Singapore and part of the work of that company was also to provide navigation client representatives. With my previous NAV QC experience I was chosen to join the client representative team on a number of 3D surveys which helped build up my experience and knowledge base, consequently my career path was different to many Nav QC’s who start out working for a seismic company and progressing on to being a client representative.

VL: Did you encounter any obstacles when you first started?

BC: When I entered the offshore survey industry after finishing my Bachelor of Surveying degree I was older than my contemporaries with the same experience levels, so I decided early on to undertake the Diploma in Hydrographic Surveying to give me an edge over my contemporaries. Initially being single and with no fixed abode allowed me to move around as needed.

VL: What does an average day include?

BC: When offshore usually I am on the noon to midnight shift which allows the seismic client rep to compile the next daily progress report. I keep current with the daily production and discuss any survey, navigation or positioning issues that have come up or are likely to with the contractor’s chief navigator and the rest of the navigation team. If required I process any navigation data for comparison with the contractor’s results. I keep the timing administrative database updates so that it will be as current as possible when the seismic rep comes on shift. I would take part in any safety related tours held during the day, as well as making sure I am aware of any seismic issues that come up and if necessary contact the seismic rep. As required I would update the navigation portion of the weekly report which I would then fold into the final report at the end of the survey. When the seismic survey is around offshore obstructions or is a 4D survey then more time would be taken up by safety and operational issues.

When ashore I enjoy genealogy research and working in the garden…under my wife’s instructions of course! However, in addition to this, I spend time each weekday marketing myself as best I can with various clients, as well as keeping my company accounts in order.

VL: How do you stay current?

BC: I attend various relevant professional and industry informal and formal events whenever possible, depending on the time and monetary commitment required. This allows me to discuss issues and network with other professionals. The professional organisations I belong to all have continuing professional development requirements which have to be met, so this is a further inducement to stay active professionally.

VL: If you could travel anywhere in the world for work, where would it be?

BC: I was lucky to work offshore East Africa in the early 1980s as well as tour Kenya, both of which were very enjoyable.

VL: What’s the most surprising / unusual thing you have encountered in your role?

BC: Being involved in the process to remove a dead whale (and yes it was definitely dead…we had seen the carcass the day before) from the head if the starboard middle streamer in a 10 towed streamer arrangement. As the operation was very unusual to say the least, I was asked by the company rep on board to take the lead to ensure the processes to remove the dead whale were not overly ambitious, and to reinforce the contractor’s emphasis on personnel safety. The whale was successfully removed and repairs carried out with only 12 hours of down time.

VL: What would you say is the best thing about your job?

BC: Interacting with different crews on different vessels and the increased technical challenges associated with complex and 4D marine seismic surveys

VL: What are the most challenging things?

BC: Due to the unscheduled contracts which the Nav QC career involves the main challenges are planning family time and vacations, as well as ensuring adequate home finances and future financial security.

VL: Where do you see seismic navigation in five years time?

BC: The current industry downturn makes predictions particularly tricky. However, eventually the ability to steer the streamers will become a more prevalent requirement in order to minimize infill, if at all possible. Other geophysical improvements, such as the use of broadband and circular surveys, may become more prevalent depending on the geophysical targets to be imaged.

VL: Which software do you prefer to use in your role and why?

BC: It is very important to establish the critical survey, navigation and positioning parameters thresholds with the client and to ensure these are tracked by the contractor and examined on a regular basis. Whenever possible the contractor should be extracting the necessary information required. This may be by various Excel macros or seismic processing outputs. Generally the main software packages used for timing administration and navigation monitoring would be MultiSeis Manager and CheckPoint which are very similar in data entry and outputs. Occasionally there may be a need, and the client may agree, that GeoMetis should be used to check contractor P1 data.

VL: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into this line of work?

BC: Think ahead to where you want to be and plan accordingly, but also be willing to change the plan when circumstances demand. If you are in a relationship, talk with your partner to be sure you are both willing to accept the uncertainties and benefits that come with a Nav QC career.

Lorna Greenaway – Project Administrator