Ross Crain's ResumeReturn To Handbook IndexWELCOME  TO


Time is what keeps Memories of the Past from bumping into Dreamms of the Future

Memoir Of An Itinerant Petrophysicist

This history of my career and consulting practice concerns travel, figuratively and literally. My job has taken me all over the world to many uncomfortable places – from the Arctic Islands at 55 below to the Arabian Desert at 130 above – from the swamps of Bangladesh and Viet Nam to the jungles of downtown Sydney, Caracas, and Bogota, not to mention Denver, and Tulsa, and Lafayette. My career has wandered through numerous winding paths, dead-ends, freefalls, and emotional highs and lows. This is a personal glimpse of the story of the journey that you won’t find in my resume.

My occupation is petrophysicist. My training is in engineering. The two fit together very well. The word "petrophysicist" will not be found in many dictionaries. My version is “petrophysicist: n. a person who studies the physical properties of rocks and their included fluids, with special regard to their economic potential in the petroleum, mineral, geothermal, groundwater, and energy sectors”.

There were hurdles along the road. I started going blind nine months before I was born, with a genetic disease called retinitus pigmentosa, better known as "tunnel vision". The tunnel gets progressively smaller with age. I was walking into tables and falling over obstacles by age three. By age seven, I had broken an arm and a leg from stumbles on steps. Today, I go nowhere without a guide. The tunnel is now about the size of a silver dollar at reading distance (try it - you won't like it) and about 4 feet wide at 20 paces. As a result, reading is a tad slow and faces are just a blur of jig-saw puzzle pieces. So if I don't recognize you, introduce yourself.

There is no cure - the cure is always "on the horizon", but as anyone who has driven a car knows, the horizon is always just ahead of you, and you never quite reach it. And no, glasses and lasers are not helpful - the retina cells die and no longer recognize light. One possibility is replacement of dead cells by stem cell therapy, but how you can convince stem cells to become retina cells and not fingernail cells escapes me. Someday. Maybe. Maybe not.

It made social life awkward as a youth (still is) but books and math were not difficult then. I read voraciously: science fiction, mysteries, adventure, histories. But I wasn't keen on politics or psychology, which would have done me a world of good. Today, it is audio books and old-time radio (OTR) plus the obligatory technical literature of my scientific trade.

Tunnel vision means that I can't read "body language", an important ingredient in business and social communication. Although I tried to fit into the corporate world in my early years, I found that I worked best as an independent operator. You will see this evolution as you read further.

Impending blindness is a hell of a motivator – get educated, get a job, see the world before it's too late. Every year had the same prognosis, “You’ll be blind in 5 years, so hurry, hurry!” So I hurried.

Just so there is no confusion, there are four other Ross Crain's with some degree of fame or infamy. One is a Texas born actor, working mostly in New York. Another is a restaurant manager in Oklahoma City. A newspaper publisher in Red Bluff, California and sometime Libertarian candidate for the US Congress is the third. The last, but not least, is a retired radio announcer and marketing man, now in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was in broadcasting in Montreal while I was in school there, but I never heard him on-air, so he must have been in the back somewhere, or I would have been kidded about my after school job. He now  volunteers to record books for the blind at UBC - thanks Ross, we need more like you. I am not, and never have been, any of these people.

See my Vision Loss Page

In The Beginning
Ottawa todayIt says Ottawa 1940 on my passport, but I have no memory of those early days of World War II. I do remember the move to Montreal in 1944, rationing books for meat, eggs, and other essentials, my grandfather's big black car, my brother's birthday in a massive November snowstorm.

Looking back on history, it is clear that we did not "win" this war. There were 30 million dead soldiers to remember and 41 million civilians killed. This was current events when I started school, not ancient, forgotten history.

True, the Americans, British, Canadians, Aussies, and a rag-tag of French resistance fighters liberated Western Europe. But the Russians won Eastern Europe and milked it dry for more than 40 years, until bad management and television brought about an anarchistic form of dependent independence to the satellite Republics. All the US got was a lend-lease bill for a few trillion dollars, a lot of distrust because of the Bomb,  and some economically worthless Pacific Island possessions, who would probably rather not be possessed.

My Mom 1929My Dad 1940The Canadians barely get a "thank-you", except from the Dutch, who rewarded us with tulip bulbs to decorate Ottawa's parkways. The French raised a monument at Ypres.

My parents were strongly affected by the war, emotionally if not physically, as were most adults of the era, and it rubbed off on me. In high school, we all agonized over the Korean War, the Suez crisis, the Cold War, and other precursors to a possible World War 3. The names have changed, but the crises continue to evolve and control by fear is now normal in many, many countries - what would George Orwell write if he was still alive today?

Montreal recentIn the following 17 years, l learned the 3-R’s plus science and engineering in Montreal. It was then, and still is, a beautiful, cosmopolitan city with great entertainment and 400 years of living culture. Growing up here was an education in its own right, and spurred an interest in the rest of the world that has never left me.

I entered Grade 1 before my 5th birthday, four months after VE Day and just 3 weeks after Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and VJ Day, The radio news told the story and even children were aware that something terrible had happened. The Bomb had been born and the world was forever changed.

This early entry to grade school made me the youngest and smallest kid in the class for the next 11 years. Grade school and high school were easy. My homework was usually done before class was over. Coming first or second in scholastic achievement, I received scholarships for books and fees for the four years of high school. As today, being a "brain", wearing glasses, and being poor at sports brought a lot of taunts from classmates - no violence, but I had to pick my route carefully. In Cote Des Neiges, I worked on a horse-drawn milk cart on the way to grade school to earn streetcar fare for the homeward journey. This got me past the scary part of the trip.

Montreal streetcar ticket 1950Montreal PCC carThere were no school buses and no lunch rooms, so we all had  to  make  the  trip 4 times a day. The streetcar fare was 1-2/3 cents (3 tickets for a nickel) - inflation over the past 55 years has multiplied this fare by more than 150 (a 15,000% increase), so if you think your present salary will carry you into retirement, think again! We rode brand-new PCC cars on Route 29 that ran to within a block of home and the school. The rest of f the MTC fleet was much older.

Family outings in the early days were mostly by streetcar: the open-air "Gold" cars gave a circle tour of the city, "White" cars to the end-of-line at Cartierville, "Green" cars to downtown for Christmas shopping, and Montreal and Southern Counties interurban cars to "see the country-side". These trips were cheap and could take all day, with a picnic lunch thrown in.

Gold Car Montreal    Green Car Montreal    White Car Montreal  

Montreal & Southern Counties Jnterurban    

When gas rationing faded away, we toured the Montreal Harbour and all the train yards, giving rise to my permanent interest in transportation, especially model railways. Today, you can't get within a mile of these places without a dozen security checks.

Constance Bay near OttawaWe had two weeks vacation each year at the family cottage at Constance Bay just west of Ottawa. The 200 mile trip took all day on Highway 17 in the 1948 Austin A40. No heat, no power, no running water, and lots of Poison Ivy were easily overlooked. The beach was a great adventure, replete with bagpiper who brought all the kids home to their parents at sunset.

Our family moved west to Notre Dame de Grace in 1950. King George VI died in 1952 and Queen Elizabeth II became Canada's reigning monarch. One channel of black-and-white television arrived in Montreal that year, but our first set didn't arrive until 1954. Montreal West High School (now privately run Royal West Academy to avoid Quebec's draconian language law) was a healthy walk 4 times a day until our move into the new house in Montreal West itself. 

Elizabeth Ballentyne School, Mantreal West   Montreal West High School as built 1937

I still remember some of the teachers: Miss Matthews in Grade 8 (she wanted me to walk home to get dry clothes after arriving wet - it was still raining), Mr. Cummings (he kept a half-size model of a Guillotine in the room to intimidate troublemakers), Mr. Mann (a great and caring PT instructor), and Mr. Wolf (who thought we should be able to recognize any piece of music by merely listening to him tap out the rhythm with a pencil). Mr Parsons, the Principal, was the stereotypical pompous-ass. If you have ever heard "Our Miss Brooks' on old-time radio, you know what these people were like.


In grade 8, all of us were given IQ and aptitude tests. My aptitude was to be a farmer or a clerk. I knew better – I was going to be an engineer. I did become an engineer and still practice engineering in the oil and gas industry.  But circumstances also made me a farmer and a clerk. I built a cattle ranch out of the bush at age 40 by choice and was forced to become a clerk to satisfy the tax collector.

My parents were great travelers. My brother and I had seen all the Canadian provinces and all the US states east of the Mississippi by the time I was 16. The Trans-Canada Highway was just a dream and the US Interstate network was mostly disconnected chunks of pavement in the middle of farmer’s fields. I loved those wide open spaces - there was no doubt that I would continue traveling.

Montreal West HardwareDuring my high school years, I worked after school and summers at Montreal West Hardware to earn pocket money. Here, I learned how to repair almost anything - there were no throw-away gadgets in that era - and how to sell Christmas trees, lawn mowers, and small appliances. Ray Nettleship, two full-time clerks (Red and Ernie), and a handyman were generous to a fault. Stock in the basement included horse harness and ferrier equipment; the main floor was nails, screws, post-war appliances, and unbreakable dishes; upstairs was living quarters for the owner and his family.

Eastern Airlines DC-7B, 1957After high school graduation, I took a week's vacation to visit family friends in Florida. Eastern Airlines ran Douglas DC-7B's at about 7000 feet, following the highways to aid navigation. I'm not sure what they did on rainy days - there was no weather radar. For some reason, the crew though I was an Eastern employee and treated me extremely well, until my true age slipped out (a mere 16 years). After that, I was just another passenger. This was my first aircraft trip; since then, I've covered well over a million miles in dozens of countries on every type of aircraft imaginable.

Eastern was run by Eddie Rickenbacker, a famous World War 1 flying ace, who lost his CEO position in 1959, when he resisted the purchase of jet aircraft to replace the propeller driven ships. He thought jets were just a fad. Even with astronaut Frank Borman as CEO, Eastern faltered in the 1970's, was taken over and raided by Frank Lorenzo's Texas Air, and finally died in 1991. Failure to adapt to changing technology dooms businesses, politicians, and ordinary human endeavours - a lesson best learned early in life.

With many family connections, I took a promotion from hardware to a summer job with the Bell Telephone Company while attending McGill University. The company had been around since 1880 and was a pretty solid bet. There was well over 100 years of Bell service in the family and I was expected to follow these hallowed footsteps. The first summer was pole inspection -  a real dream job in the country and elegant neighbourhoods, a little hot in the tight quarters of the older city center. Our foreman turned down an invitation on our behalf to Honey-Boo's pool, even when it looked like a great idea to the rest of us at noon on a 95 degree summer day.

The next 3 summers were in the Outside Plant Engineering department. The Bell System Practices (BSP's) were our bible and code book for everything. The only job I did that wasn't in the book was to move a concrete underground man-hole 6 feet to the west to get if off private property. Since every long distance wire between Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto went through this man-hole, it was a tricky maneuver. My final project was to design a cable TV system to be routed on existing telephone poles. It would be a contract job for Bell, but by the end of summer, it became clear that all my work was for nothing. The client could not raise the capital for the job, and it was done by others over the next couple of years - a disappointing end to my telephone career.

I had wanted to go to the University of New Brunswick and take Forestry. The outdoor life appealed but the eyesight problem and financial constraints made such a choice impractical. The most obvious choice was McGill, and so it was done. I still don't know what my parents gave up to make this happen.

Mack DT 1956 Montreal BusRed maples on the way to McGillThe reddening of the Maple leaves signaled the start of the school year and the long streetcar ride downtown to the McGill campus. It also meant the end of the summer job as Trainee Engineer at  Bell Telephone, where the job, the people, and the freedom were far more interesting. So it was a bit of a melancholy moment to change from employee back to student, until the pressure of homework squeezed out all such thoughts.

McGillThanks to the financial and moral support of my parents, I graduated as an Electrical Engineer in 1962 from McGill University. I was merely 16 years old on entering and barely 21 when I graduated from the 5-year degree. I am quite ambivalent about my education at McGill. Transistors were invented in 1955, IBM and UNIVAC computers existed, and Sputnik was launched in 1957, but we learned nothing of these. Wrong choice of electives, maybe. In 1959, I built a transistorized stereo hi-fi amplifier kit (Harmon-Kardon) and radio tuner - my sole exposure to the post vacuum tube era.

MacDonald Engineering Building, McGillThe Macdonald Engineering Building was 50 years old in 1958 and is still in use today with little change except for better lighting. The lab gear was turn-of-the-century (19th century, that is). It all seemed so primitive.  The new McConnell Engineering Building opened in 1959, doubling the number of classrooms and labs. Strangely, I don't have any memories of this building except for the main two-story  theater-style lecture hall. I remember very little of the instructors. They were a cheerless lot with little interaction with individual students.  

McGil "Plumber's Ball" 1961Fifty years have passed; new buildings, modern facilities, and the trend toward a less formal teaching style have changed all that. The school has always ranked extreme;y well in surveys over the years. Even US customs and immigration people have heard of the place. I did learn advanced-math, physics, chemistry, mechanics, and thermodynamics, and these served me well in my later career in the oil industry.

Swimming at lunch hour was my escape while others went to the pubs on Peel and McTavish Streets - still too young to be legal, although that didn't always stop me from joining in.  

Ross Crain graduation photo, 1962Job offers were plentiful – pulp mills, transformer design, power line design, telephone and cable television – the world was being wired in 1962. So I chose well logging.

“What is well logging?” my mother asked. “I have no idea.” I replied. “Where is it done?” she asked. I told her. She cried. Western Canada was uncivilized territory, at least in her opinion.

Considering that the FLQ had begun bombing mailboxes in Montreal in 1962, in support of Quebec separation, it was hard to say which place was less civilized. Yes Virginia, there really was home-grown terrorism in Canada, long before the hysteria prompted by 11 September 2001.

PHOTO MEMORIES OF MONTREAL circa 1950 - 1960 - from a postcard set.



Learning The Trade - Schlumberger
1964 Rig NW AlbertaI bought my father’s Austin A55 Mk II, filled it with prized possessions, and ended up in Red Deer, Alberta. For the next 11 years, I learned the oil business on the job in western Canada, from Schlumberger, Geophysical Services, Dome Petroleum, J. C. Sproule, and Digitech.

Lets start with Schlumberger, well logs, and travelling. This four year stint shaped the foundations of my entire career. No matter how hard I tried to get away from them, I was always drawn back to well logs.

My memory of the first field job is still vivid. It was a warm evening beside a wheat field near Eckville, Alberta, a few days before the summer solstice. The  northwest sky was still bright at 11:00 PM, beautiful shades of blues and purples. We rigged up the equipment in the derrick, ran the job, and started rigging down. A glance to the norteast and the sky was bright again with the tip of the sun just appering -- it was 3:00 in the morning. Amazing! I was hooked and Alberta summers have been a joy ever since.

So, what is a well log? It is a record of the physical properties of rocks recorded versus depth in a well bore, using various electrical and radioactivity measuring devices. It is recorded on paper or film (and now as a digital data file) so that we can view the data values, analyze them using calculators or computer software, and generate mumerical answers that help us understand the possible presence of oil or gas or minerals that might be economically extracted for use by all of us.

<= Each wiggly line on this image is a well log "curve" and the entire image is a portion of a complete "well log". Depths in the well bore run in the vertical direction on the image. Each log curve represents one particylar phyical property of the rocks.

Modern society could not survive without well logs - in a round-about way, they keep us warm, power our homes, and drive our trains, planes, and automobiles.

I lived in 13 different small towns and ran well logs for Schlumberger from southwest Manitoba to Peel Plateau in the Yukon. I learned to work “on-call”, learned to drink on “days-off”, and drive 80,000 miles a year just to get to work. Passenger planes still had propellers and a mobile phone set weighed in at 50 pounds.

Seattle Space Needle and MonorailDuring one of the 3-day "days-off", I drove from Red Deer to Seattle over the Rogers Pass and return in the Austin to see the 1962 World's Fair. This was the year the Trans-Canada Highway was finally finished with real pavement. A piston blew at the top of the Rockies on the way home, leaving no choice but to continue homeward engulfed in a cloud of blue smoke maintained by five gallons of 80 weight gear lube "borrowed" from a construction site. Other 1962 milestones were Canada's first satellite (Alouette 1, using those new-fangled transistors), the first James Bond movie (Doctor No, starring Sean Connery), and the arrival of the Beatles in North America.

Each station manager treated me well: Al Chase, Al Dorin, Bill Anderson, Mel Grey, Bob Wilson, Ian Norquay would all have connections to my career later on. Log analysis was charts and nomographs, or pencil and slide rule. There were no calculators, no spreadsheets,  no personal computers. While still stationed in Red Deer, I did vacation relief in Stettler and Drayton Valley. Both were one-truck stations with good crews and good TAS (telephone answering service -- no voice-mail yet).

SLB Logo,1960'sTraining was intensive, constant, and judged by exams. The Houston training session was serious stuff. The day I arrived it snowed and froze – the Canadians were not forgiven. I drove there and back as part of my vacation time, seeing a bunch of the Western states for the first, but not the last, time. On the way home, I followed snowplows from Farmington to Durango, where I spent a week watching the weather channel (it had great background music) studying for my field engineer exam. Barry McVicar was my examiner and he still tells tall tales about the event.

1964 Plymouth FurtI was assigned a series of company cars with crapped-out steering and soggy suspensions, finally receiving a new Plymouth Fury in 1964. A company car was home - bedroom, kitchen, living room, and office while at the well sites. I drove over 80,000 miles in 1964, just to get to work.

Dave Dudley's "Six Days On The Road" was our theme song. Many nights on the road were spent listening to distant radio stations: country music on WSM Nashville, Studs Turkle telling stories on WGN Chicago, and a good variety of music on KFBK Sacramento. KFBK is now right-wing shock-jock-talk - what a waste of bandwidth. Local stations in that era went off the air at 11 or midnight and didn't reappear until 6 or 7 AM. I have been a fan of old-time radio (OTR) shows ever since and have a large collection.

Potash research, 1963-64During 1963, I was a YESS man: Young, Eager, Single, and Stupid, so I did the relief engineer slot – 3 days on each truck in Oxbow, Weyburn, and Swift Current - 12 days on duty, on call 24 hours a day, then 3 days off. After 6 months of this, I ran the station in Lanigan, Saskatchewan for about 4 months. Then I had a truck of my own in Oxbow. 

There is nothing, I mean Nothing!, to do in Lanigan, so I did original research, in my spare time, on log analysis in the Saskatchewan potash beds. I was invited to visit the underground mine at Esterhazy to see how the real rocks compared to real logs Seeing geology from the "inside" sharpened my appreciation for the variability of nature.

The Cuban missile crisis, the beginnings of Viet Nam, and the Kennedy assassination took place during all this turmoil. Everyone old enough to remember knows exactly where they were when President Kennedy was shot in November 1963. I was on the side of a lease road, in a company car, filling out a service order near Hazlet, Saskatchewan. Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins died earlier the same year in a plane crash. Ernest Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe had both committed suicide the previous year. Icons were disappearing quickly and it was a lonely period for a single man bouncing around in small towns.

1963 Regina IBM 1620 - those tapedrives are 6 feet tallMy first computer program was written in 1964 to calculate potash analysis from well log data. It ran on the IBM 1620 with 60K memory in Regina. This machine read the program and data from punched cards and printed results on a chain printer. There were no disk drives on this machine, although such things did exist - they were 2 feet in diameter and held 1 Megabyte, with access times that could reach 1 second per retrieval.

Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, 1964The results of this research were presented at the CIM convention in Quebec City. Al Gorrell, of J. C. Sproule and Associates, listened to my practice presentation and taught me how to project to a small  audience in a large room. The conference was held at the Chateau Frontenac, amidst gobs of gilt and masses of mahogany, the tell-tale signs of the grand-chateau style Canadian Pacific Railway hotel chain, this one built to last back in 1893 (now owned by Fairmont Hotels, in turn owned by an Arab investment group).

Lesser Slave Lake from the beachMy independent research surprised Schlumberger and they awarded me a “Salesman of the Year” scroll, even though I wasn’t a salesman. The results from this research ended up in four other technical papers and a Schlumberger Interpretation Manual. I was “a little too interested” in logging potash wells, so I was transferred to Valleyview in late 1964, then to Slave Lake. From here, we covered a huge territory with few paved roads, stretching from Fort McMurray and Calling Lake to the East, Swan Hills and House Mountain to the South, Rainbow Lake and Zama to the North, and Fort St. John and Monkman Pass to the West.

DHC-2 Beaver on skis in the bushWe flew in Beavers and single Otters, cruised the treetops in Bell 204’s and G-4’s, slogged through swamps and snow drifts on Nodwells and Bombardier Sno-Cats,  forded rivers and played daisy-chain at the end of D-8 Cats in the company car. Sometimes we even got to drive on pavement. On one job near Calling Lake, we drove into a Hudson's Bay Company Trading Post. A little blond girl ran from us, screaming "Mommy, Mommy, White Men!" We were Strangers in a Strange Land.

My first job in northern Alberta was out of Swan Hills. I had driven from Oxbow in southeast Saskatchewan (about 700 miles) to find a map to the wellsite taped to the shop door. I was used to the square grid of township roads in the south and the map looked pretty square. But there are no grid-line roads in Swan Hills - I spent about three hours going in circles, finding my self back at the same confusing intersection in the middle of the wilderness. The route least traveled turned out to be the trail to the rig.

Teepee Creek Church where I was married (now a museum)The marriage license said Slave Lake married Red Deer in Teepee Creek – how much more Western Canadian could you get? Mother cried again. We honeymooned in Hawaii – it was a long way from Wabasca, Fort Nelson, and Fort McKay, the Purgatories of the day - and a whole lot warmer. The plane was a CP Air Super Constellation (still 4 propellers, no jets).

Royal Hawaiin Hotel, HonoluluWaikiki Beach 1965We drank Mai-Tai's on the catamaran cruise, circled the Island in a passionate-pink jeep, and dined at the Royal Hawaiian. It was pink, too. I had been listening to "Hawaii Calls" on the radio every Sunday night for years - it was like coming home!

My wife insisted on seeing a wireline logging job at a drilling rig, so we went out to a Big Indian rig, drilling post-holes near Calling Lake. The camp was atrocious and the cook had an oozing knife slash across his left eye. We declined breakfast and my wife slept in the car. She didn’t ask to go out again.

Canadian Pacific Airlines Schedule 1965There were some exciting trips. On the way to Peel Plateau in the Yukon, we boarded the Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-3 passenger flight to Dawson City from Edmonton. The plane was painted Bright Orange, the stewardess (no one had heard of flight attendants in that era) was dressed in a gorgeous blue uniform, nylons, and high heels. Knowing we would soon be in mud-heaven, we were in our best grubbies. Our logging tools were tied to the floor in the aisle. Coffee, sandwiches, and cookies were served while carefully perched on the sonic log sonde. The stew later admitted she had been assigned to this flight because she had done something “bad”, but declined to specify exactly what this might have been.

1963 Inside Logging TruckNext day we transshipped everything to a Beaver and set off to find our skid unit at the rig. A Beaver can’t climb much with a full load, so my photos (now lost to posterity) show mountainsides only a few hundred yards from the cockpit window. It was summer but it snowed throughout the job. There were not enough bunks so I slept on a spare bed with no mattress in the meat locker – cold but quiet and no cigarette smoke.

On the way out, we had a two day layover in Dawson waiting for the orange bird – the geologist played the washboard and one-string laundry tub in the bar that night, although it never got dark, of course. During the day, we explored Robert Service's cabin, open and untended, but full of furniture and books. The hospital, abandoned since the Klondike Gold Rush, was collecting museum artifacts - railway locomotives, mining machinery, old cars.

1962 Schlumberger Logging Truck - my first truck was #2508On a spring breakup job in Red Earth, we got stuck in the mud on the way out after the job and ran out of fuel and food and water. We were out of radio contact too. Someone claimed they sent a chopper to find us after we went missing, but we never saw it. On the second night the rig’s fuel truck showed up inbound on the frost and filled us up. We drove out, two days late and suffering dehydration from drinking swamp water. We got a lecture from the boss, who was wearing a sport jacket and slacks at the time. We were less attractive.

Sskid unit OSC-U #7 used for fly-in jobs, DSU's were smaller, on 3 skids with a canvas tentMany trips were fly-ins, especially during spring and summer. This meant driving to an airport, or more likely a staging area beside a bush airstrip. Loading tools into an Otter or slinging them in nets under a Bell 204-B was hazardous. The usual problems of weather, icing, navigation, mud, and weariness made it all a little surreal.

What made the stress worse was the need to strip all the equipment and connecting cables from your logging truck, keep them dry, and reconnect everything inside the skid unit at the rig. One missing cable or tool and the job could be delayed for hours, even days. On return, you had to strip it all out and reconnect back in the logging truck before you could have a bath or go to the bar. You don't have to go to war to experience battle fatigue.

Somewhere along the way, I purchased a 1948 MG-TD, rewired it with armoured logging cable, and used it as my personal car. No heater and no sidescreens made it useless for about 8 months of the year, but it was fun.

Wives don’t thrive in isolated oil field towns. There was a strong push to get a “real” job, in the city, in the office. And lo, it was so.

Schlumberger is still the recognized leader in well logging, but competition is more capable than in my logging days. Ironically, 40 yeasr later, I wasteaching Schlumberger stimulation engineers all about logging several times a year at Tulsa University. They were so young, so keen, so naive - just like I was once upon a time.

Learning The Trade – Geophysical Services
GSI Logo, 1960'sGeophysical Services Inc had been acquired by Texas Instruments and was bragging about their new TIAC model 827 "automatic computer" for processing seismic data acquired on digital magnetic tape. Up to this point, all seismic data was acquired and processed on huge multi-track analog tapes. Sounded intriguing. Applied, hired, moved to Calgary in a week in June 1966. My wife smiled all the way there.

TIAC 870 ca 1967The TIAC had only 8 Kb ferrite core memory (really slow) and read field data from 1 inch, 21 track tapes. It filled a large room, weighed a couple of tons, and needed massive amounts of air conditioning to stay alive. The program was read from punched paper tape, as were the analysis parameters prepared by us, the "geophysical engineers". Due to the small memory, some intermediate calculations were written to and read from a tape drive - disc drives arrived a few years later. A FORTRAN compiler allowed us to write our own routines when needed. It should be noted that when disc drives did arrive in the late 1960's, they were huge and heavy - one TI version was mounted on a horizontal shaft that needed Boeing 737 landing gear bearings to support it.

The wiggly curves on the left-hand image are the original recorded data from a single seismic dynamite shot. Time is in the vertical direction instead of depth as on a well log. The cross section at the right is the final product derived from many records, after processing to remove noise and geometrical effects. Bright areas in both images are "reflections" of sound waves from different layers of rock beneath the surface. By mapping these reflections, we can locate possible places where oil and gas may be found.

GSI patents gave them the lion's share of the digital acquisition and processing business for a few years. The IBM/360, 9 track field tapes, and competition broke this near-monopoly and by 1970 most people were using the newer formats and processing centers. Digtal recording and processing of geophysical data was a genuine revolution in both technique and in the quality of results. It was a great learning experience to be so close to the cutting edge.

Calgary Tower and downtown Caolary, 1968I bought a used Austin A55 station wagon to survive the first winter and traded it for a nearly new MGB-GT hatchback in gleaming white - a very rare car. The MG-TD continued as the summer car. I put a down-payment on a house in Brentwood in Calgary, on the western edge of the city. Yuppiedom was looming.

A few crash courses in geophysics and I was a geophysical engineer, working for Carl Hickman, setting up data processing runs. I remember learning to convert decimal numbers to hexadecimal and back again, but I can't remember why, since the input parameters were coded in decimal. The TIAC worked in hex, so there must have been a conversion program in the system somewhere.

My logging experience made me an instant “expert” so logging, then geology and reservoir engineering, courses were suddenly part of the job. I certainly learned more preparing the courses than my co-workers did from my presentations. Imagine an electrical engineer with a one-semester course in hard-rock geology teaching soft-rock oilfield geology - not a pretty sight.

In 1967, I wrote a seismic inversion program for the TIAC to generate a synthetic sonic log from deconvolved seismic traces. It didn’t work, of course, or I would be world famous. I didn’t understand the need for low frequency data – data that wasn’t in the seismic signal. Roy Lindseth solved the problem a couple of years later and he IS world famous. We'll meet Roy again in the fifth reel.

On vacation, we drove to Montreal in the MGB to visit Expo 67, the celebration of Canada's 100th Birthday. Similar to the World's Fair, it highlighted achievements of many countries, not just Canada's, which were somewhat overshadowed by the US and Russian pavilions. It was the middle of the Cold War. My fondest memorry is the Mariachi music carried on the gentle harbour breeze from the Mexican pavillion.

Rocky Mountains west of Calgary

The Calgary Tower was built during 1967-68 to a height of 190 meters (630 feet) providing a rotating restaurant and a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains. No longer the tallest building in Calgary, it still acts as the focal point of downtown Calgary.

TI Head Office Dallas, 1968Meetings in Dallas and assignments in Midland taught me what hot weather was really like - kind of a Purgatory I was told. I’ll take Alberta winter any day. On a side trip from an SEG convention in Houston, we took a long weekend in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The Appletonn Express, then a Budd RDC1 rail diesel car, took us to the interior  of the island and a tour of the Appleton Rum Distillery. The 80 mile return trip took all day and certainly gets into the hills to see local sights. Out of service for many years, there is talk of revitalizing the railway as a tourist train.

I did a little PR-style marketing in Edmonton, Regina, and Quebec City, plus market research, data acquisition logistics planning for Dan Brennan. On one such trip to Quebec, I was bumped to First Class and sat with a Toronto lawyer, sipping free brandy for several hours. This was when Air Canada's First Class was actually first-class. Conversation turned to pastimes and wives. He said his wife was a pianist. I said "My wife plays the piano, too." He replied "I said she was a pianist, she does not 'play piano' ". The conversation ended there. But the brandy was pretty good.

The original GSI left Canada many years ago. Texas Instruments sold the company to Halliburton in 1988, who tried to merge it with GeoSource (ex-Petty-Ray Geophysical) but this failed due to personality conflicts. Halliburton sold its seismic assets in 1994 to Western Atlas. Baker Hughes bought Western Atlas in 1998. Western Atlas was merged into Western Geco in 2000, a 70-30 joint venture between Schlumberger and Baker Hughes. Not a single GSI employee survived this corporate struggle. Although I was not involved in any of this, it is an interesting insight into the precarious nature of employment in the oil and gas industry.

One individual, Davey Einarson,  survived the mergers until 1994 when he purchased the rights to the GSI name and the non-exclusive seismic database. He might have acquired the first non-exclusive data set that I set up for GSI in 1967. So the GSI name lives on today, in Calgary and Houston, but it's an entirely different business.


Learning The Trade – Dome Petroleum
1968 Calgary IBM 1130A headhunter found me buried in his files and convinced me to move to Dome Petroleum as a reservoir engineer in early 1968. With well logging, seismic processing, and a tiny bit of geology training, I was far from a reservoir engineer. I knew it but Dome didn’t. So I read Craft and Hawkins, wrote down a dozen equations so I could talk sense about material balance and pressure buildup, and learned the rest on the job. I was slightly computer literate because of the GSI training, so soon I was adapting IBM 1130 programs for Dome’s use. The 1130 also read punched cards but had removable, multi-layer disks, about the size of a huge birthday cake.

Guess who taught log analysis to the engineers and geologists?

1968 Grey Cup ProgramMartin Luther King and Presidential hopeful Robert Kennedy were both assassinated in 1968 - more icons gone.

Inside of a year, this job was leading nowhere. Even though I had adapted the IBM 1130 reservoir engineering programs for Dome's use, no-one actually wanted to use them, preferring instead pencil, paper, and sliderule.  

I resigned and my wife and I drove the MGB-GT to Toronto in a little under 48 hours to see the 1968 Grey Cup game. Calgary Stampeders lost 21-24 to Ottawa Rough Riders, but it was a great game. No job, no prospects, no problem. Father was concerned – he had worked all his life for Bell Telephone – here I was looking for my fourth job in 7 years.

This was long before Dome grew to be the biggest bankruptcy in Canadian history, after blowing eight billion of Other People’s Money on worthless assets and Arctic gas that no one could deliver to market. Dome Petroleum is long gone and most of its assets wound up at Amoco Canada in 1988. Amoco merged with British Petroleum (BP) late in 1998 and the Amoco name on gas stations was merged into oblivion in 2002.

 "Smilin' Jack" Gallagher and Charlie Dunkley ran a tight ship in the early days of Dome - too bad they didn't keep a tighter rein on the debt later on.

Dome became a major client of mine in later years, when Jim Hamilton, one of my mentors at Dome (and an ex-Schlumberger engineer like me), acquired three of our LOG/MATE desktop log analysis systems, and offloaded a significant amount of consulting work to us as well.

Learning The Trade – Sproule and Associates
I had finished an industry course on Petroleum Economics given by Tony Edgington of J. C. Sproule and Associates Ltd, so I phoned him to see if he knew anyone looking for someone with logging, geophysics, and reservoir engineering skills. He did. He was. The company was only 8 years old but was well known for its reserves estimates and for its pioneering work in geological exploration of Canada's Arctic regions. It was Dr Sproule's work on the geology of northern Canada and his personal drive that led to the formation of PanArctic Oils Ltd. More on that later.

The integration of geology and engineering was very appealing, so I accepted the offer without a second thought. Cam Sproule introduced himself on day one. Tony Edgington, Noel Cleland, Mike Brusset, and Blake Marshall became my mentors, taught me how to “leave footprints in the snow” so anyone could pick up my projects and update them without re-doing them. This was the most valuable lesson I ever learned on the job.

Al Gorrell, the senior geologist at Sproule, was instrumental in guiding my early attempts to find truth in log data. He was successful in instilling a sense of excitement and wonder about all things scientific, especially the infant science of quantitative log analysis. He gave unstintingly of his time, experience, and knowledge to all who asked. He traveled the world over on oil, gas, water, and mineral exploration projects, as well as social and humanitarian endeavours. Al Gorrel was killed in a terrorist attack on a hotel in Manilla, Phillipines, on 12 February 1985 while on a mission for the United Nations. Al's legacy lives on. Unfortunately, so does terrorism.

Four ladies actually ran Sproule: the tea-lady, the librarian, the geological secretary, and the engineering secretary ran everything, and very well indeed, thank you. Although this is a bit of an exaggeration, it never paid to forget their power. Today, of course, there are no tea-ladies or secretaries, just executive assistants.

The reservoir engineering tasks were interesting and the cash flow was purposely conservative. The banks loved it and it suited the Canadian psyche of the era.

Early on, I wrote a log analysis program that ran on the CDC 3300. Computrex could digitize short chunks of logs and put them out on punch cards. There was only one building in Calgary with a floor strong enough to carry the weight of the rotating drum memory. It was an old grain mill. We used the program only rarely – many jobs were done with pencil and paper and a sliderule, just like we did it at Dome Petroleum.

Then, in the spring of 1969, came King Resources. They wanted to explore for sulphur on Melville Island in the Canadian Arctic. This would involve seismic, gravity, magnetics, strat hole drilling, surface geology, ocean and ice surveys – you name it, it was on the list. Sproule was the Arctic expert. I was assigned to create a logging system for slim hole sulphur exploration. Out came the catalogs and shortly a helicopter portable mini-logging unit was a reality. Someone had to run it. Me.

My wife objected. We were trying to build a new house in Bragg Creek. I went anyway. This was the summer that Apollo 11 landed on the Moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. We heard about it from Voice of Russia, which came in well on my portable radio. Most of the crew at Caribou Lake on Melville Island felt that we had landed there too. Pretty barren, pretty cold, and our life-line was long and tenuous.

200 foot Ice Cone Drake Point Blowout 1969Nothing happened on the house – there was no one in charge. At Caribou Lake nothing was happening either. Someone had forgotten to assign a project manager. I radioed back, explained that every team was waiting on orders. Sproule assigned a project manager. Me, with help from Stan Harding who had years of experience in the Arctic.

So we surveyed the well locations, got the drills to work; laid out some seismic lines on a map, got the seismic underway. Others saw action, so on their own, they started to work. I did the initial well location surveys with sun shots and an almanac, just like David Thompson  170 years earlier. Later we used a Tellurometer that didn’t like cold weather and computed the data with a Monroe comptometer, assisted by 7-figure trigonometry tables. People would sneak in to make the machine divide 1.0 by 3.0 and watch it run forever, but it never died on us. Surveying was hampered by the fact that one of the Canadian government benchmarks wasn’t located where it was supposed to be.

Early in my first tour of duty at Caribou Lake in 1969, the well being drilled by Dome Petroleum a couple of miles away blew out. We watched proceedings from a safe distance, but went on with our work. The blowout built an ice cone 200 feet high and was visible for many years on satellite photos. In 1973, I was back at Drake Point, supervising logging crews for PanArctic Oils - small world!

1969 Resolute Bay    1969 Hercules

I logged the sulphur exploration wells too, but spent most of my time on logistics: food, fuel, accommodation, camp staff, drilling supplies, land and air transport, radio communications, marital counseling, daily reports, planning, and more planning.

I had to fire the helicopter pilot because he scared the rig hands (that takes a bit of doing) and he refused to stop buzzing rigs and camps. The nearest replacement pilot was in Montreal. We got him, but it took nearly ten days for him to arrive. In the meantime, crews slept at the rigs while the sky-jock was “sick”. He probably was sick, burnt-out and unbalanced from too many hours on traffic patrol for a Toronto TV station.

This was my first management post and I still don’t like telling a person that his services are no longer required, regardless of how dire the circumstances.

King Resources was a high-flyer. They brought a plane load of Directors and investors to camp and expected meals and beds. John Glenn, the first US astronaut to circle the globe in a spacecraft (Feb 1962), was among them, as was John King himself. The nearest spare beds were at Resolute Bay. They weren’t available so we hot-sheeted for three days until the illuminati got tired of the primitive facilities.

Native sulphur lay on the surface in several locations, the result of erosion and chemical alteration of gypsum from Barrow Dome. NASA insists that this dome is a "salt dome" and uses it in training materials. When I tried to explain that gypsum is not "salt" in the sense of "halite or rock salt", they replied that gypsum was also a salt, so they were "Right". "Stuff" and nonsense - don't use gypsum on your next steak. It takes years to dissolve (that's why we make wall board from it) and it tastes terrible. Gypsum is a covalent bond, like halite, but so is calcium carbonate - and no-one thinks of limestone as a salt or evaporite.

All the King Resources brass went home with a bag of loose sulphur, probably all the native sulphur to be had on Melville Island. We didn’t find any more than a trace in the drill holes.

We did find oil at the south edge of one of the gypsum domes, but no one was interested.

Another disaster in the making involved wildlife. King Resources had agreed to let Al Oeming, owner of a game farm/zoo in Edmonton, to use our camp while catching, with permits, three caribou. We had no spare beds for the 4 men and little spare food, with our bi-monthly supply flight still a long time off. After 10 days without catching a caribou, I assigned the chopper and two rig hands with nets to assist. In no time they bulldogged the critters, wrapped them in nets ready to travel. Even tranqued, they were not happy campers.

It was time for my rotation back to Calgary so I got the chance to ride with two of the trussed up caribou in the twin engine Dornier to Resolute Bay. Our French speaking pilot said a few unkind words that sounded like “merde” as various body fluids seeped into the cable channel that went to the tail rudder. It wasn’t hard to remember that everything freezes at 10,000 feet. The caribou and I caught the Pacific Western scheduled flight to Edmonton. I arrived safely, but I can’t speak for the caribou.

On my next trip out, the pilot and I both fell asleep on the way to Res Bay – the autopilot worked beautifully until we ran out of fuel. The silence woke us both up and after flipping to auxiliary tanks, the engines caught and we stayed aloft, and awake, for the rest of the journey. After one more rotation, the job was packed up, and I returned to the office. Our house was finally built that winter – there was someone in charge again. I did the wiring, insulation, inside paneling, and roofing in my spare time.

King Resources went bankrupt shortly after. John King was charged with fraud in regard to some investments by a mutual fund in his properties that "went missing". I had loaned them my photos for inclusion in their annual report. None appeared in print and the photos were never returned.

Intel invented the first microchip CPU and the precursor to the Internet (ARPANET) appeared - few of us noticed these world-changing events in 1969.

Bill Anderson, one of my bosses from my Schlumberger days, took over my position at Sproule when I went to Australia for Digitech. Later, Bill was responsible for starting my independent consulting career.

Dr. Sproule passed away in 1970, at the far too young age of 65, before his dream of major oil and gas discoveries in the Arctic were finally proven. Sproule and Associates survived, and is still considered the pre-eminent resource evaluation consulting company in Canada.

Learning The Trade - Digitech
1969 SydneyI would have been happy to stay at Sproule for the rest of my career. But the headhunter who got me to Dome phoned to see if I wanted to go to Australia. Maybe. Probably. Yes!

After a short orientation at Digitech’s Calgary facility, we were whisked off to Sydney to help get the Australian operation up and running. This was to be a modern geophysical data processing business serving Australia and southeast Asia. I was to be Managing Director. So we sold the MG’s, packed the dishes, rented the Bragg Creek house, and set off for further adventures.

1970I arranged to finish a 3 year Business Development Certificate, started 2 and a half years earlier at University of Calgary, by correspondence. I passed but the non-standard final exam, designed just for me, took nearly three weeks to write – 20 essays on 20 business topics. The exam would have taken two hours had I stayed in Calgary.

Digitech in Sydney was exciting and hard work – new computers, new people, new work ethic. The computers were an EMR 6050 with and EMR 6130 to read tapes and drive the plotters. EMR was a subsidiary of Schlumberger - you just can't get away from those guys. We used a motor-generator set to convert the 50 Hz current to 60 Hz.

1970 Watson's Bay Doyles - best Crab in Sydney    1970 Camp Cove Beach - My House at Center

Business went well during the first year. Dave Robson was a great mentor and Sydney was a great city to live in.  I traveled to the capital cities; Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Canberra  – each had its own list of oil company and government contacts. New Plymouth, Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown, even the top of Mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand.  Jakarta, and Singapore were also on the tour. These still had open, running sewers on both sides of most streets – crossing these at night on narrow cement planks was no fun at all.

1970 Sydney Harbour    1970 Tall Ships Cook's Bicentennial    1970 South Head Sydney Suicide Leap

In Jakarta, we did pig-out on an authentic Dutch East Indies ristaffle with about 10 courses in an early colonial mansion. On another trip, we ate at a restaurant on stilts about a mile from shore, returning in pitch-black to a waiting rickshaw. In Singapore, the night-out was spent with business associates at the bars of Boogie Street – not a good place for good boys at night.

My early trips to Jakarta in 1970 were just as the Russian influence in the area was declining. Suharto replaced Sukarno as President in a military coup in 1967, murdering thousands of Communists and possibly a million ethnic Chinese. There were many abandoned construction projects, all blamed on the pull-out of Russian contractors. The streets were a riot of rickshaws, taxis, mud, and water. People defecated into, and then washed themselves and their clothes, in the open sewers. After a monsoon rain, this seemed practical, but after a dry spell, I was astounded to see the habit continuing.

2001 Modern Jakarta2001 Pool at Shangri-La Jakarta

On more recent trips in 2001 and 2002, everything is paved, there are no open sewers, and the freeways and hotels look like Houston. It’s amazing what oil money can buy, at least close to the seat of power. The Shangri-La is the place to stay today. However, political unrest, student demonstrations, murders of ethnic Chinese, and terrorist bombings continue. Visitors are warned to keep a low profile.

Back in Australia, John Boyd came in as second-in-command later in 1970 and was instrumental in raising the quality of our staff and our processing. Rick Bogehold kept the software in shape. Dave Pratt ran the mineral exploration side of the business. All three went on to run their own independent processing centers in later years, John in Calgary, Rick in Denver, and Dave in Sydney.

Then came the Australian Federal election. The new Labour government ran the foreign oil companies out of town and made it difficult for local firms to raise capital. Seismic crew activity dropped to near zero. The rig count dropped to less than a dozen. Digitech hadn’t the resources to carry on in Sydney. I tried to raise capital in Australia but realistic forecasts made the outcome pretty obvious. I finally had to lay everyone off and oversee the auction of all the assets.

1970 Bondi BeachSydney had been Paradise. We were regaled by fabulous weather, gorgeous beaches, fine food, and a cosmopolitan atmosphere that Calgary lacked. We saw the tall ships come in from the sea for the bicentennial of Captain Cook’s discovery of Australia. We watched the fireworks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We partied on the beaches and enjoyed a very active social life. Just watching the sailboats on the Harbour was a thrill to the eye, not to mention the bare beginning of the topless bathing craze.

There was a bit of trouble in Paradise, too. The Viet Nam War was slowly building toward its debacle and the Aussie men were tired of the US troops snagging their girls while on R&R. Australian troops were also in-country and it all made for some ugly demonstrations and newspaper rhetoric. We weren’t directly affected except when we were mistaken for Americans while shopping or at a bar. A Maple Leaf on the lapel helped, but it wasn’t the universal symbol of sanity that it is today.

Although I initially had a company car in Sydney, I abandoned it for a 1947 MG-TC, wire wheels and all. It cost $800 and could be used all year in the NSW climate. I sold it before I returned for $900. How dumb can you be? It was worth 10 times its cost here in Canada had I thought to ship it home.

UNIVAC 1108I returned with the other Canadians to work in the Calgary office as VP Operations. I had the task of overseeing all programming and computer center operations – about 35 people in all. I hired the first female computer operator in Calgary and the first female computer programmer in Digitech. There was shock and horror but they worked out just fine. This was pre-Gloria Steinem. We also got new computers - a Univac 1108 replaced the EMR 6050. Cmdr. Grace Hopper, a computer dcience pioneer and legend, and a US Naval Officer, showed up for the inauguration of our 1108. In full dress Naval uniform (she never appeared in public any other way), she held court at a Digitech reception for clients.

Like most other mainframe manufacturers, UNIVAC survived a few mergers and divestitures, to disappear completely in the early 1980's. Dinosaurs cannot survive the meteoric impact of the mini-computer, now more popularly known as the personal computer.

1971During an expansion in 1972, Digitech took prime tenancy in a new building. I was assigned to oversee the special facilities needed for the computers, and nearly died while doing it. For weeks, I had been walking up to the second floor to inspect progress. The stairs were unlighted and the second floor had no windows. One day, I headed for the stairs, but felt a draft and stopped. The stairs weren’t there! I nearly walked off into empty space. It turned out the stairs failed a fire inspection and had been jack-hammered away – no barricade was put up. Just one of the hazards of poor vision.

Shortly after, we moved all the computers out the windows of the old building with a crane, trucked them to the new building, and craned them up to a hatch in the second floor wall. The second floor location was a security measure - there had been several bombings of computer centers in the USA and one in Canada. There are Ludites everywhere.

Univac 1108Thirty-six hours later, we were up and running. We also took control of Computer Data Processors Ltd and moved all their equipment to the new building. CDP was Roy Lindseth’s first major business venture and there had been tremendous rivalry between Digitech and CDP. Roy went on to an illustrious consulting career and is still active today.

We also installed the first remote job entry terminal outside the computer center. I can’t claim much credit for this as Univac and Texaco were the prime instigators. However, the negotiations with the telephone company to get a full duplex, uninterruptible line that was clean enough to carry 300 bits per second for at least one mile was the daunting task assigned to me.

My wife left her para-legal job and me for a career in interior decorating in Vancouver in 1972. She did very well at it. At Digitech, I was unpromotable – I was one of 3 VP’s and the Pres was not going to croak any time soon. I left Digitech in 1973 to travel some more.

Digitech went bankrupt in 1979, but the name carried on for a few years under new owners. Ben Berg went on to develop a business to scan pre-digital seismic sections and maps – scanning was a new and emerging technology in 1974,

Dave Robson took over R. Cruz and Associates, changed the name to Veritas, and grew it into a world class giant in seismic acquisition and processing. After Dave retired from Veritas in 2004, he formed a private equity business. Shortly after, Veritas merged with CGG, the result now known as CGG-Veritas. (CGG was born in 1931 by Schlumberger, with a number of small French firms and banks, combining their various geophysical methods and licenses into a single independent company - Schlumberger sold its interest in CGG in the early 1950's.)

Flying On My Own – Crain and Associates
Bill Anderson, mentioned in dispatches earlier in this narrative, was flying to the Arctic for Sproule to supervise logging operations for PanArctic Oils. In 1973, Bill wanted out from this to spend more time with a growing family. His decision led me to my consulting career, as I took over the job, working under my own name.

This work expanded quickly and other clients came on board, so E. R. Crain and Associates Ltd was born. Bob Meneley and Diego Henao were easy to work for, and even Charlie Hetherington showed a grudging respect for what we did to keep the loggers honest and on time.

Upon leaving Digitech, I had bought a brand-new 1973 Mustang II hatchback in silver and black with red leather interior - very macho looking, but a little bit gutless even with a V-6. It was the first "new" car I ever purchased with my own money. I put 250,000 miles on this car before it rusted off its frame. I also picked up another MG-TD, over-priced and needing some TLC. I later sold it to a fellow  petrophysicist, Case Struyk, who stripped it to its last nut and bolt and has nearly finished the restoration, 20 years after acquiring it.

You might wonder why all these side trips into automobiles. You have to appreciate that I was going blind, slowly but surely. When would it be bad enough to terminate the privilege of driving? Well the answer was "soon". I quit driving at night in 1979 and quit driving altogether in 1985. One of the greatest feelings of loss is not the loss of vision, but the loss of independence when you give up driving yourself when and where you want.

Shanghai colonial style hotel.Shanghai teahouseOne of the first non-PanArctic jobs in my consulting career was, believe it or not, for Digitech. Before I left Digitech, I had put together a proposal for a seismic processing center in Beijing for the Chinese government. When it came time to present the proposal, I was invited to join Don Simpson and two others from Control Data.

Hong Kong harbour with JunksWe entered China by way of Hong Kong, still under British rule aat the time. Then a train to Canton, walk across the border, train to Shanghai, plane to Beijing. This last was a Russian equivalent to the DC–8, but it had six motors instead of four – the Russian metallurgy was heavier than the Western version, so they needed more power to lift the load. This was a few months after President  Nixon “opened China to the West”. Nixon later resigned after impeachment proceedings were begun due to his lies and evasions about the Watergate burglaries.

We were shown all the tourist sites before tourists were allowed into the country. We saw the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Tien-en-men Square, the Great Wall, and the diplomats’ department store, all with our personal guide and translator. Fancy-dress dinners were toasted with a potent brew called Mao-Tai, downed straight in one gulp to the cry of "Gombye", equivalent to "Skoll" or "Cheers".

We could walk anywhere we wanted but accidentally found Chairman Mao’s compound. We were politely shooed away. It was February, it was cold, and the smog from a million soft coal space heaters was more than most throats could bear. There were no private cars in Beijing in 1974, a few buses, a few Government cars, and a few million bicycles. Compare that to today's modern Beijing, created from scratch in less than 30 years.

1974 Entrance to Forbidden City Beijing  Statues near Ming Tombs  1974 Inside Forbidden City Beijing   1974 Tien-en-men Square and Hall of the People

Our presentation went well but we wondered how our hosts knew when to get the right people gathered for each phase of the process, without asking. We realized the rooms had to be bugged so we started doing our planning sessions while out walking. Suddenly the pictures in each of our rooms were changed and they started asking us what would be presented next. No one lost face.

The French and Germans were our competition. The Canadian government was not prepared to offer sufficient guarantees for the project. The French company CGG got the job. The French had learned years ago that politics and business are intimately intertwined. Canada hasn't figured that out even today.

Just before we left, we met a fellow who was training Chinese technicians on maintenance of Boeing 727’s. He had to teach all topics to all trainees – hydraulics, electronics, engines, you name it. No one was allowed to be a specialist, but none of the trainees could grasp all of an airplane’s complex systems. This man was not allowed to leave China (he said) until everyone was trained – he had been there six months already and showed serious signs of mental illness. And he was by himself – no helpers, no family, no way out. Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t get the contract.

HP 45 Programmable CalculatorMy log analysis in 1973 was done on the first pocket-sized programmable calculator ever invented – the HP-45. It had memory for 49 program steps and 7 registers to hold input data, parameters, and answers. Imagine – a complete log analysis program in just 49 steps! Later, we moved up to the HP 41C and TI 59, giving us the equivalent of 400 steps and a dozen registers. Wow!

Saraband 1973Core-Log Overlay 1973Computer log analysis for PanArctic was done using Schlumberger’s Saraband and Coriband programs. With my direction, Computrex digitized and plotted the core data on a scale that would directly overlay the Saraband plot. This was the first time log and core data were  integrated in a clear visual manner.

Bob Everett ran most of the Saraband jobs at the Schlumberger data center in Calgary. He was a sharp engineer – I had been one of his trainers when he was stationed at Swift Current. Bob went on to Schlumberger Ridgefield, later to GRI in Austin, and now consults from Victoria BC.  I told you this story was about traveling!

We also ran dipmeter and directional surveys in most wells, also processed in Calgary. Since the surveys were run close to the magnetic North Pole, magnetic compass directional surveys were useless and gyro-compasses were used. The survey was "closed" by logging all the way in and out of the borehole - that could take up to 30 hours. Gyro drift and earth's rotation were distributed mathematically to make the closure error equal to zero.

Sperry-Sun direction surveys were also run while drilling. They never agreed with the Schlumberger surveys. The problem was that they did not run a closed survey, choosing instead to run short "add-on" survey segments to earlier surveys. The accumulated errors were huge and directional information was grossly different than the closed surveys. No amount of discussion could convince Sperry to run a closed survey to confirm their errors. Today, everyone uses 3-axis accelerometers for this, and all surveys are closed.  

The Panarctic contract ran until the PetroCanada takeover around 1984. From the very beginning in 1973, the work involved a highly integrated petrophysical analysis of each well, performed first at the well site, then more rigorously in the office. All geological data (sample descriptions, mud logs, cores, regional geology, special core analysis), engineering data (drill stem and production test recoveries, pressure transient results, capillary pressure data), and geophysical data (basin maps, local structure) were integrated during the petrophysical analysis.

Major gas fields discovered by PanArctic in Canada's High Arctic.

A composite report was generated in 1977, covering all Arctic wells drilled to that date, and maintained as new wells were drilled. The report included 70 pages of text, 150 illustrations, and over 1000 pages of supporting data, as well as a wall of file cabinets with original and computed log prints, and a room full of magnetic tapes. This was the first of a great many integrated petrophysical reports to follow over the next 30 years.

1974 Late Spring on Melville Island - that's me in blue parka at leftForemost/Nodwell Delta3 

I made about 200 flights to the High Arctic on PanArctic's Lockheed Electras and later PWA’s 727 cargo birds, 7 to 8 hours each way, counting layovers. Then a Twin Otter to the airstrip nearest the rig. Then a Nodwell or chopper to the rig. Then check in, find a bunk, find the loggers, find the wellsite geologist, find the drilling supervisor, find the radio operator, and most important, find the kitchen. All of this at 50 below and in the dark of an Arctic night. Not bad for a blind man, I told myself.

There was always the risk of Polar Bears, so each rig camp had a guard dog. One very dark blizzard, I was following the rope out to the rig from camp. About halfway, when both camp and rig were out of sight in the snow, I heard a snuffling sound behind me. “Oh shit” I said, “I’m done for, now”. It was the dog, not the bear.

There was a problem bear at Rae Point with a cub. They were captured, tranqued, and sent to the Calgary Zoo. I was told they were on the same plane as I was on, going south. I never saw the cargo half of the plane so I can’t vouch for the truth of it.  Scary thought.

1977 Rae Point, Melville Island    1975 PanArctic Electra    1978 PWA Boeing 727    1979 PanArctic Drilliong Rig

PanArctic lost 28 men in a plane crash when CF-PAB went through the ice on approach to Rae Point base camp. Most perished of hypothermia on the ice. I had come out the day before and went back the day after. Everyone wore their parka and boots for the whole flight, just in case. No one spoke. Inside three weeks, everything was back to normal but not entirely forgotten.

Dave Curwen joined as an Associate in 1975. Bob Bigg and Kelly Woronuk joined in 1976, and Ian Norquay followed in 1978. They handled all the Alberta Deep Basin and foothills field supervision jobs, while Dave and I worked both field and office consulting. In 1981, Dave left to follow his own path in the oil industry with American Hunter, Canadian Hunter, and finally Suncor. Bill Clow joined in 1982 and is currently an independent consultant in Calgary. Joan Reinbold, Vickiw Sels, and Bob Agar ran the computers, and Debi Gray typed the reports and kept the books. This group of professionals was probably the best team of petrophysicists ever assembled in Canada. 

Kelly worked from his farm at Rycroft, Bob from home in Grande Prairie, Ian from Selkirk, Manitoba, Dave from Vernon BC (on his motorcycle in good weather), I worked from Bragg Creek, and Bill, the sensible one, actually lived in Calgary. Bill Cuttress and Arne Matiisen hung their hats briefly in our shop while they were between other ventures.

By 1976, it was obvious that there must be a better method than programmable calculators, and cheaper and faster than Saraband, for large scale log analysis projects in the office. But there wasn’t – some main-frame computer programs at service bureaus and a few time-share systems existed. I had written some of them myself, beginning in 1963, but they were slow, cumbersome, and very unfriendly.

By chance, in mid-1976, I saw a demo of the HP9825 “calculator”. It had 4000 bytes of random access memory and a digital cassette tape drive built-in that had a 250K capacity. The operating system lived in a separate 24K ROM, leaving the RAM available for programs and data.

There was also an 11 by 17 inch flat-bed plotter. Shazam! The first desktop micro-computer system for log analysis was born. It was fast. It was small. It was portable. It was friendly. It was LOG/MATE!  All prior systems were either mainframe or time-share (to a mainframe), which were not fast, not portable, and definitely not friendly, with turnaround of many hours or days.


We had looked at other so-called mini-computers before choosing the HP9825, a true micro-computer. The Digital Equipment PDP-8 had been around for many years but their version of "portable" was not really true. The last PDP-8 was sold in 1979, and the model was never replaced with a more modern micro-computer.

To illustrate further the need to anticipate technology trends, Ken Olsen, founder and president of DEC, lost his job in 1992, partly because he still refused to recognize the market for person computers. He is reported to have announced that there would "never be a need for a computer in the home". DEC did not survive Olsen's shortsighted management, and DEC was broken up and sold, the computer group going to Compaq in 1998, later absorbed by Hewlett Packard in 2002. 

To put Olsen's comment in context, Thomas Watson, president of IBM said in 1950 that there would "never be a need fore more than 5 computers worldwide", and that they would never weigh less than 1.5 tons. Watson and IBM survived this lack of vision, but one wonders how.

Worst case of poor vision? Ronald Wayne, co-founder of Apple Inc, who sold his 1/3 interest for $800 in 1977.

A digitizer and dual 5-1/4 inch 250Kb floppy disc drive were soon available, then a decent printer. By today’s standards, these were expensive and primitive, but there was nothing else like it on the market for many years.  More importantly, plug-in ROMs for scientific functions and Fast Fourier Transforms were available, allowing us to write compact, fast code for log analysis and seismic modeling that could not be done in any other micro-computer.

The HP 9825 computer and HP9872 pen plotter, shown with log analysis crossplot
           and depth plot in 1976, 5 years before IBM "invented" the PC.

Dave Curwen and I programmed this calculator turned computer to do everything a mainframe program could do, and then some. We used a lot of mathematical tricks with integer and fraction parts of numbers to save memory space, just as I had done with the HP-45 calculator.

The Apple II was introduced in April 1977. It differed from its major rivals, the TRS-80 and Commodore PET, because it came with color graphics. They were all too little and too late to solve our needs and were not capable of scientific work for several more years. Apple, of course, has survived and so has HP. They both have adjusted and adapted to changes in technology trends.

Bill Gates was starting Microsoft by 1976, but we were totally unaware of this, the third world-changing event in my lifetime, after the Intel microchip and ARPANET. It was not until 1981 that IBM married the Intel chip and Microsoft operating system in the first IBM-PC model 5150. We had our HP system doing useful work 5 years earlier. And it wasn't until 1985 that the IBM-PC/AT, with an 80286 processor, could catch up to the HP 9800 series in scientific calculation capability.

Office consulting expanded rapidly with the LOG/MATE system as the backbone of many projects, large and small. Staff grew to 5 full-time professionals, 3 full-time technicians, a secretary / book keeper,  and several part-time technicians and programmers.   

Flying On My Own – Log/Mate Limited
1977The “Friendly Log Analysis System” had many friends – 40 systems were sold between 1976 and 1982. In 1978, E. R. Crain and Associates Ltd changed its name to Log/Mate Limited to reflect the new nature of the business. Log/Mate Inc and Log/Mate Services Inc were opened in Denver the same year, under the guidance of Monte Fryt.

Monte Fryt 1980s

After the LOG/MATE daze, Monte continued his professional career with Anchutz, Hunter, and others in Denver, and is currently with EOG in Midland, Texas.

LOG/MATE, and later LOG/MATE PLUS, pioneered the practical use of Holgate plots to calibrate log to core data, as well as the “4-D Plot” using a symbol to represent the Z axis and colour to represent the W axis on a conventional X – Y crossplot. The use of colour could illuminate rough hole conditions, shale volume, lithology, or anything else the analyst desired.

HP hardware continued to evolve and the 9825 became a 9826, then 9836, 9845, and eventually the HP320 series, each with more memory,speed, display capabilities, and language fratures.

The LOG/MATE PLUS,desktop log analysis system as delivered in 1981 with an HP 9826
 or 9836 computer and other peripherals

LOG/MATE 4-D crossplot, depth plot, and composite Holgate plot.

LOG/MATE printouts were neat, legible, page-sized, and reproducible - another first in 1976

1980Thousands of wells were processed through LOG/MATE by our staff in Calgary, in addition to those run by oil companies with their own systems. We couldn’t have done it without our support staff: Bob Agar, Joan Reinbold, Vicki Sels, Debi Gray, and other part time help

We added seismic modeling capabilities for some clients in 1981, using the built in Fast Fourier Transform ROM of the HP9800 series,  and cash flow analysis for others. These features were very popular and added materially to the concept of "Integrated Petrophysics" that we were trying to promote.

Seismic Modeling with LOG/MATE, 1981

Our seismic modeling concept included a quick-look approach to modeling the effect of gas on sonic and density data that was required for the then popular "bright-spot" technique for seismic interpretation. With John Boyd as co-author, we won Best Paper of the Year award for this work from CSEG in 1982. These models tended tp produce surprising results, which of course was the point of the whole exercise.

Mapping of petrophysical properties was added ln 1982, but not pursued as vigorously as possible, mainly due to the looming financial crisis, high interest rates (24%), and receivables running at 180+ days. The mapping code was written by my brother, Ian Crain, under contract to Log/Mate Limited. Ian was then, and still is, an expert in geographical information systems (GIS).

Integration of core, test, and formation top data was always part of the basic system, a foretaste of the integrated software to come. And all of this ran in 24 Kb memory - try to do that today!


1980Beginning in 1978, I started teaching courses and seminars on integrated petrophysics, both in-house and in open-sessions in our office space on 8th Avenue.. 

Our crowning achievement was the installation, in 1981, of a multi-computer, shared-resource LOG/MATE system for tar sands analysis at the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board. If "shared-resource" doesn't mean anything to you, think "server plus PC workstations" (not time-share mainframes with dumb-terminals).

There was little time for travel except to Arctic and other remote well sites. But the SPWLA Convention in 1980 was in Mexico City. I took a week at Zihuatanejo on the west coast near Ixtapa. Cervesa, civeche, and hot sun on the beach washed away seven years of stress - missed a day of the Convention, too. A tame bull-fight, Mariachi music, and great food were supplied in plenty. 

One of the side-effects of retinitus pigmentosa is often early-onset cataracts. After the Mexico trip, the cataracts were surgically removed and replaced with lens implants. This eliminated the need for reading-glasses - one less hassle in a hassle-full life.

Side Track - A Little Piece of Paradise
On the personal side, I had purchased a vacant quarter section south and west of Rocky Mountain House in 1976. This was partly in response to the phony energy crisis of 1973 – 1975 and partly just to get-away.

2003 New Ranch house and Hereford herd - Click for more info

1990 Hereford Cover GirlsOver the next 3 years, I cleared the scrub, built a house and finally moved from Bragg Creek in 1978. I laid up most of the logs myself, but had 2 carpenters do the roof and finish carpentry. Being an electrical engineer, I wired the house myself, setup a 4 KW wind generator, and charged re-claimed telephone office batteries. The ranch was, and still is, 3 miles from the nearest power line and nearest neighbour. The wind generator died of fatigue and old age in 2001 and has been replaced by a 1200 watt solar array. A major house fire in 2001 meant a major rebuild. All is well at the ranch again.

Between 1980 and 1984, I cleared, cultivated, and seeded another 240 acres of lease land. I left all the good trees as windbreaks and shelter belts, cultivating only willows and scrub brush. In 1979, the first of many Horned Herefords were on site and the calving – feeding – marketing learning-curve began, including a two week hands-on course at Olds College. Ranching was a welcome contrast to the hectic oilfield work. I kept an apartment in Calgary and commuted weekly or as needed. 


LCI Royal Red ET 83A             FA Silver Canadian ET 37D

   1998 Cows on pasture
The ranch needed a sequence of power more capable than the Mustang, which was kept for commuting to Calgary until 1986. A Ford F250 4x4 and a 24 foot goose neck trailer were the order of the day, and when the ranch was finished, these were replaced by a new 1982 Chevy S-10 4x4 that ran 'til 1997. It ran 200,000 miles and rusted off its frame, just like the Mustang.

A flotilla of tractors and farm machinery was acquired, and I drove these until 2001. I only wiped out two fences that I know of. I like red so the tractors were all Massey Ferguson, but I'm not allowed to drive them any more without a seeing-eye guide onboard.

From 1979 to 2005, we raised purebred Hereford bulls and replacement females for commercial ranchers and other purebred breeders. We were told that our stock was "one of the best kept secrets in the Hereford industry". Our bulls were Maternal Trait Leaders and 10% of our cows showed up on the Top Producing Female list most years.

Rocking Are Herefords - My Patch of Paradise
Aerial view of the ranch looking North, with North Saskatchewan River in far background.
if it looks smooth and green, it's because I helped nature make it that way.

"Buddy" and his Dad with Mom close by "Buddy" and his real Dad, LCI Royal Red 83A

In 2005, the heart of our herd was sold to the Bohnet family of High River and the younger bred cows were dispersed through Innisfail Auction. The bred heifers, yearling bulls, and 2-year old bulls were sold in 2006. There are still cattle at Rocking "Are" - now we run grassers in the summer and lease some grass to keep the pastures in good condition. 

We put a lot of time and effort into our Herefords, not to mention love and affection for the cows, their calves, and our great bull power. We miss their peaceful nature and truly mourn the loss of our “family”. Full details are Here.

Grounded – D&S Petrophysical
In 1982, the oil industry began to slump and interest rates had reached 24% on secured bank loans. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Policy was in full effect, sucking billions of dollars from Alberta oil companies into Federal coffers. Our clients were not paying on time, and the handwriting was on the wall. My old alma mater, Dome Petroleum, was the worst debtor of them all, with receivables heading past 180 days. We did get paid eventually, but it was close.

Trudeau brought us the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 as well, but it didn't help the oil industry. It didn't even guarantee the right to own property.

I was fortunate to sell the assets and on-going business of Log/Mate Limited to D&S Petroleum Consulting Group Ltd and continued as their Petrophysical Manager until 1986. D&S took on all our staff, but several were laid-off as the business climate continued to decline.

In late 1984, I remarried in Fresno CA, officiated by a judge who could have posed for a Pancho Villa wanted-poster. With a rebellious 13 year old,  drug-addicted step-daughter, life got a little hairy at the ranch.

At D&S, we migrated LOG/MATE PLUS to LOG/MATE ESP, still on HP computers, but with the aim to move onto the “new-fangled” IBM/PC. Although it arrived in 1981, the PC wasn’t powerful enough to consider until the IBM/PC-AT showed up in 1985.

LOG/MATE PLUS and LOG/MATE ESP output to paper was identical and included tops, tests, and core data along with the petrophysical analysis results. The difference was in the Graphical User Interface (GUI) that allowed the image to appear on the screen in colour. Dave Jaques wrote our ESP GUI himself, and combined with the functions keys on the HP keyboard, provided the best human interface to a computer available at that time.

Colour CRT images from LOG/MATE ESP in 1984.

HP 9836 computer with colour monitor and built-in floppy discs in 1984 - an
IBM-PC capable of quantitative log analysis didn't show up for another year.

With a joint venture agreement between D&S and the Alberta Research Council, LOG/MATE ESP was finished and considerable research on expert systems and artificial intelligence for log analysis was undertaken. The object of the research was LOG/MATE ESP ASSISTANT – a knowledge-based expert system for log analysis that would assist the analyst by helping to choose analysis parameters and algorithms appropriate for the job at hand. The CWLS awarded me "Best Paper of the Year" for the AI research presentation..

Artificial Intelligence: The ability to use a computer to make the same mistakes a human can, only faster.

I was officially the D&S Project Manager, but in fact had little autonomy. Between the D&S money problems, and ARC's need to demonstrate academic research, there was little room to actually build anything that worked. We experimented with rule-based systems using LISP and ProLog, favourite programming languages  of the AI fraternity. Archaic and arcane, these were easily shown to be inferior to conventional languages in coding rules for petrophysical analysis.

The D&S team consisted of me, Dave Jaques, Kathy Knill, Ken Edwards, and Ron Jakeman; Lance Pepperdine was added later. ARC provided Bob Hipkin (an ex-Schlumberger electronics wizard) as my counterpart, Lynn Sutherland, Ken Gamble, several AI experts who floated in and out on short term contracts, and Evie Einstein, a not-too-distant relative of Albert himself. This was a pretty powerful group and with fewer sidetracks up blind alleys, the project might have gone more smoothly. Too many cooks, not enough meat for the stew.

The continued low prices for oil, and continued repercussions from the NEP, hurt the prospects for the success of this project and it was suspended in the fall of 1986. It was revived, without my involvement, in mid 1987 and a product named INTELLOG was delivered in 1988, based predominately on the ESP model and my original AI research, augmented by a working rule base developed by Einstein and Edwards. It took a year to get my severance pay but I got it, at the doorway into the court room, moments before the judge entered and only a few months before D&S closed its doors for good.

I have often bemoaned the apparent lack of successful AI programs. Ray Kurzweil explained this in 1990 in his book "The Age of Intelligent Machines".- It seems that when an AI program is successful, it's not AI, just smart coding. So you don't hear much about AI today. Somewhat like myths and legends, the moment you believe in a myth or legend, they are not myths or legends anymore.

Horse 2If you would like to try some AI, see if you can write a set of rules that can distinguish between the three critters at the left, then see if the critter on the right can be identified by the same rules. What distinguishes a horse from a cow from a baby calf? Once trained, a human has no problem. When I was young, horses were attached to wagons, cows were not, so it took a while to differentiate a horse from a cow when both were grazing in a farmer's field.

D&S was not a pleasant place to work. My desk was searched, I was screamed at by other managers, tension was very high, inter-departmental jealousy at fever-pitch, departmental accounting overstated expense and overhead, understated income, R&D tax credits were shaky.  I was warned of this at our "welcoming" party by one of the managers; it was a little too late to back out then.

Al Gorrel, a friend and mentor from my earliest days in the oil patch, was killed in a terrorist attack on a hotel in Manila, on 12 February 1985 while on a mission for the United Nations. I attended his funeral but the memory was  somewhat spoiled when D&S deducted 4 hours from my monthly contract fee for leaving to attend "without permission". Ain't power wonderful! I dedicated my textbook in his memory when it was published in 1986 and again in the electronic version that was put on the Internet in 1999.

D&S management never understood the integrated project concept, so the seismic, cash flow, and mapping functions were dropped from ESP. The turf wars were terrific and no function that could or might be done by another department was allowed on our system. What a waste!

They also failed to foresee the impact of PC’s and were reluctant to pursue “non-conventional” desktop workstations, preferring instead mainframes and dumb terminals. This meant that resources for ESP were constantly under attack, even suspended from time-to-time.

D&S was wound-up in 1989 and re-surfaced under new ownership in 1992, but INTELLOG was essentially dead. Maybe if Ted denHartog and Bill Fisher had tended to D&S business instead of gambling, and losing, in Calgary real estate, D&S might have survived intact. Maybe not; the National Energy Policy really did shut down the oil industry for several years.

Interlude – Husky Oil
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Ed Klovan offered me a petrophysical job with Husky Oil. I thought this was a great idea, to avoid the ups-and-downs of the consulting business, but got “merged-out” in 1988. So much for ups-and-downs.

Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics. The city won great praise for its handling of the affair, as well as for the warm reception given to the visitors. "Eddie the Eagle" made his debut on the high jump but failed to qualify for further honors. The Jamaican bob-sled team also failed to win, but were honoured none-the less for their valiant attempt. The organizing committee didn't lose any money, much to the distress of Montreal, who are still paying for the 1976 Olympics.

Husky? It motors on as one of Canada's two integrated oil companies. Although it was wholly-owned by Li Kai Sheng, a Hong Kong businessman, when I was there, Husky is now a publicly traded company with $80 billion in assets worldwide.

Flying On My Own Again – Spectrum 2000 Mindware
1988I had started a new petrophysical business, Spectrum 2000 Mindware Ltd. In 1984 to contract the D&S work, and re-activated it in 1988. Oil prices revived, the NEP was dead, and business boomed, thanks to contract work from SSI, Geoquest, ECL, CMG, Teknica, Rakhit, Shawa and other engineering and geological consulting firms, not to mention a few government agencies and many oil and gas companies.

Technical staff for these projects was hired on a contract basis and overhead was kept to a minimum. I would not be trapped by another oil industry recession. With PC’s, distributed processing was a reality – each contractor could work at home if they wished. Weekly breakfast meetings kept it all together and data was transferred on diskettes. Today, we would use email for meetings and data transfer – but the concept of distributed processing was started long before the Internet became useful to ordinary people.

The largest project in this era was 700 wells of the Burgan field in Kuwait, analyzed just after the 1st Gulf War in 1991. It took 6 people with 6 computers a year to deliver 4 tons of paper plots and detail listings (they wanted five copies of everything). Joan Voytechek, Joan Reinbold, Doug Laing, Allan Gunn, and Lorne Turner stuck with me to achieve a really professional product. The Kuwaiti clients visited Calgary several times. Two were women engineers, a rarity in the Moslem world.

When Kuwait was finished, I took a tour of Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand with my wife, with an extra week at the Royal Winter Fair in Sydney. The tour contingent comprised McGill and Toronto alumni, all well-off and pretty well retired. We were not-so-well-off and far from retired, so it was a bit of a mis-match. Unfortunately, my wife decided to take the photos. She shot 16 rolls with an auto-focus, auto-exposure, manual-film-advance camera with a dead battery. It's a good thing I have a good memory for scenery - every photo was a grey-blue blur. On balance, it was a good vacation, especially visiting my old haunts from 20 years earlier.


Many more projects in Asia, North Africa, and South America followed. Some of these were mentoring or forensic jobs, where my task was to solve the problem and let others do the real work. A half-dozen jobs involved mediating between an unhappy client and their equally unhappy service provider. With good science, a modicum of diplomacy (which I am not noted for), and a beard, I managed to settle all the disputes amicably.

On one such job, I was called in after 3 months of "no progress" on a large study being analyzed by a friend of mine. A half day of research revealed he had been building the data base and had a complete analysis ready to run on about 300 wells. We checked the code, ran a few test wells, checked them, then  pressed "Start" on the batch run. Next day, we delivered the results. I was a hero, but they would have had the same results without me.

Another involved a clear case of misinterpretation of log analysis results. The log analysis itself was actually very well done. The client knew the interpretation by the consultant was wrong, but some cultural differences and some harsh words had prevented reconciliation. I spotted the error in a moment. Integration of production, test data, and core data proved my conclusion easily. Everyone backed off and smiles were soon on every face.

Another cultural problem occurred in Fort McMurray. The complaint was "noisy" dipmeter data. The processing parameters had been changed between one contract year and the next. The new data was better and more useful than the old, but the geologist would have to work harder to use it. The cultural problem? The geologist was a visible minority and had suffered real, and probably imaginary, discrimination for years. He wasn't about to listen to another slight on his skill or ambition. No smiles this time, but the boss was happy as I had independently confirmed his view of the situation. 

The following year, I was called back for another dipmeter problem. The logs had dead spots with no data. One trip to the logging truck showed a buildup of heavy oil on the electrodes, which the crew would wipe off with diesel fuel. But then they would run back in, relogging the previous interval and getting oiled up again - no new interval could ever get logged this way. So I asked "Why do you re-log the interval you already have, instead of just the interval you need?" The answer was a resounding "@#$@#", followed by a sheepish grin. Sometimes, you can be too close to your own work to see the solution.

Some of the more interesting analytical jobs were the fractured gas reservoirs in Pakistan, gas in metamorphics in Indonesia, Canada’s only fractured granite exploration well, Viet Nam’s fractured granite at White Tiger (Bach Ho), laminated shaly sands in Venezuela and Canada, and numerous shallow gas and tar sands projects in Canada.

My log analysis software vehicle was the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet. I had developed a knowledge-based spreadsheet as early as 1985 to prototype some of the expert system concepts that were to go into LOG/MATE ESP ASSISTANT.

With the rapid growth in power of IBM-PC’s, my META/LOG PROFESSIONAL spreadsheets became very practical and I still use it today. Copies were sold as a stand-alone program for a number of years and it is now available as shareware on my website.

The “Meta” in META/LOG stood for “beyond” log analysis, as we were doing production prediction, cash flow, DST data analysis, and core data analysis on the spreadsheet along with the log analysis results. Only Case Struyk noticed that Meta/Log was an anagram for Log/Mate - even I didn't notice until he mentioned it.

The depth plotting program, LAS/PLOT, was written at my request by Bill Clow in 1987, based on the features of the original LOG/MATE program. About 50 META/LOG + LAS/PLOT packages were sold before other low-cost software hit the market. Active marketing of software ceased in 1991 when the consulting practice became too busy to warrant the time needed for demos and installs.

Participation in technical societies is an inevitable activity for a consultant. It is a basic marketing tool, as well as being instructive. I let memberships in CIM and CSEG lapse some years ago, but maintain a close kinship with the CWLS. A member for many years, I became active in 1980 - 82  as Publications Chairman, then Treasurer, and then President for 1990-1991, and was elected an Honourary Member in 1994. I still contribute technical and general interest articles to CWLS publications.

META/LOG advertisement in 1989

I made several trips to Bangladesh with SSI, One was during Ramadan – no useful work was done because fasting doesn’t leave much energy for attentive discussion – much like trying to work during the Christmas - New Years season in Canada.

Another was just after a killer typhoon with more than 100,000 dead littering the swamp that is Bangladesh. The country was in mourning and little work was done. The running joke was the story of a man with his wife huddled in the hotel basement, waiting for the storm to abate, Thinking he was going to die, he confessed to an infidelity. He didn’t die but he did get a divorce.

1990 Dhaka City - Old Fortress    1991 Megna River Bridge, Bangladesh    1991 Old Dhaka

On another trip, I visited a logging job about 70 Km from Dakka – we were obliged to be back before dark to avoid bandits. In Dakka, we visited the old fort overlooking the harbour, toured several markets, and watched while folks from one political party threw a pipe bomb into the offices of the opposition party. The newspaper next day said only two people died.

Old Dhaka, a few miles from new Dhaka, is a fascinating ghost town with ancient Victorian era brick buildings, some with miniature busts of Queen Victoria embossed on the frieze around the ceilings. There is a disused road running straight east and west as far as the eye can see that is said to be the old Silk Road used by Marco Polo.

On my last trip out of Bangladesh, I was without a seeing-eye guide. I had the airports pretty well memorized by now and knew where to find the business-class lounge in Bangkok. Approaching the lounge, I saw a flight attendant standing at the door and had a nice, albeit one-sided, conversation with her before entering. Turned out she was a cardboard cutout - so much for flying on my own!

To illustrate how small the world really is, one of the Canadian consulate staffers in Dhaka had been a student of my accountant in Calgary. Further, my brother and sister-in-law both traveled to Bangladesh on business, meeting with the same man, and eventually becoming good friends.

Other trips were more harrowing – Libya after Lockerbie; Kuwait a month after the fires were put out; Jakarta during the student riots; Viet Nam in the monsoon. Fortunately, I was with good friends on most trips.

Kuwait was a white knuckle job in more ways than one. Also traveling alone, the route was  through London, with a huge microfilm machine as luggage. Security was frantic and I had to prove the machine worked and wasn't some form of bomb. Since I had never used the device, this was far from trivial.

On approaching Kuwait City, the 747 driver tried to do a straight in approach in a sand storm with a 60 mph tail wind. The undercarriage wasn’t tall enough to touch the ground, so we took off again, right over the Sheraton Hotel. We made headlines the next morning when it was reported that Flight 107 nearly hit the hotel and knocked down the chandeliers in the roof top dining room.

1991 Sheraton Hotel Kuwait City   1991 Water Towers at Ahmadi

Worse yet, the pilot made a left turn over Iraq, instead of a right turn over the Persian Gulf after the near miss with the hotel. He was in the no-fly zone in seconds. I didn’t see the USAF escorts but I’ll bet they were there. Finally landed at 2:30 AM with no one there to pick me up. I found an American with a cell phone and called the hotel. My co-workers complained about the late hour - I wasn't due until tomorrow they said. Well, it was tomorrow, but 4:00 AM, not PM. To top it off, the hotel lobby was full of bullet holes. The logs were scorched and sooty from the fires. Otherwise, it was a beautiful place.

The analysis of the offshore fractured granite reservoir at Bach Ho (White Tiger) in Viet Nam was a masterpiece of planning and execution. Bill Clow, michael Fung, and Craig Lamb spent several months in Vung Tau analyzing the logs, seismic, and geology respectively. I was Geoscience Manager, looked after the budget, and spent two weeks there, training the Vietnamese and Russian clients and generally getting in the way.

1995 Beach north of Vung Tau   1995 Vung Tau - Jesus Statue   1995 Vung Tau - Bhudda Statue

The courses and presentations were given in English and translated first into Russian, then from Russian into Vietnamese, a pretty slow process. Not too much technology was delivered through this heavy filter. I have done a number of courses through both sequential and simultaneous translation, but this was by far the most bizarre.

With daily power failures and condensation running down inside the computers, work was also slow, but we got it done on time and within budget, thanks to a concerted effort by Bill Clow, Craig Lamb, and Michael Fung.

VietSovPetro Office Vung Tau    Total Rclipse in progress, Vung Tau, 1995

There was a total eclipse of the sun while I was there – the entire city shut down and children were kept indoors in case evil spirits snuck out to roam free. It was a very eerie scene in an otherwise bustling tropical city.

Entering Libya for Teknica was never easy after the UN sanctions were imposed in response to the Lockerbie plane bombing. There were no direct air connections to Tripoli. We were taken by rented mini-bus from Tunisia by drivers who were at peace with their Maker, so death defying acts meant nothing to them. The route followed that taken by Rommel and Montgomery 50 years earlier, and by T. E. Lawrence, even earlier - you could see ghosts of the dead shifting with the moving sand. The immigration and customs inspection at the muzzle of AK-47’s was a bit intimidating. I was told that arriving by ferry from Malta was worse, but I never had to do it.

1997 Tripol Gate to the Suk    1998 Tripoli in the Suk  2000 Tripoli

Street demonstrations and the bustle of the Suk demand a careful approach. And a Maple Leaf pinned to the lapel seems to help us from being equated with the evil US infidels.

There were many less eventful trips, but en-garde was the watchword: Mexico City, Adelaide and Sydney again, Bogota, Denver, San Francisco, Fort McMurray, Lloydminster …. 

Several trips were made to Caracas, but we only saw the downtown core in daylight. On others, we never saw daylight – we landed at night, went to the office before sunup, went back to the hotel after sunset, and left at night. Some people think traveling is glamourous and exciting.  

Business travel is not terribly relaxing, especially when security procedures get slower and more idiotic every year. I have spent a lot of very boring hours in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Narita, Heathrow, Frankfort, even Miami, Houston and Denver, waiting on weather, dead airplanes, or bad connections. It is rare to have enough guaranteed free time to be a tourist.

1998 Modern Caracas   1998 Merida Cable Tram   1998 Trans-Andean Highway

Although most trips are in-and-out without sightseeing, I did get to Merida and then to the highest point on the Trans-Andean Highway (4100+ meters) on a weekend stop-over between Caracas and Maracaibo.

1995 SwitzerlandIn the fall of 1995, my wife and I took another nice vacation – three weeks in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, chasing narrow gauge trains and steaming across the lakes. We saw the Matterhorn and the Rhine Falls, the glaciers and tunnels of the Alps, even an hour for spaghetti carbonara in Tirano, Italy after riding the Bernina Express. Then came the big surprise.

The Great Divorce began three weeks after we returned. My wife tried a sneak end-run first. I was on my way to Viet Nam for two weeks. Her lawyer FAXed the divorce papers to my office, intending them to languish unanswered while I was away. He got the dates wrong so I saw them before I left. The 10 day response was honoured and she didn’t succeed in obtaining an uncontested divorce. The lawyer who finessed this was later shot dead by an irate client over an alleged land swindle. I guess my divorce was not the only shortcut he tried. Five years and a few lawyers later, we settled at about where we started. California community property rules don't apply here. I did miss the comfort of the brand-new Ford Explorer though.

Speaking of justice in 1995, President Clinton's universal medicare bill was defeated, O. J. Simpson was acquitted, and a government building in Oklahoma City was bombed by home-grown terrorists, killing 189 people. So much for "truth and justice for all".

Flying On My Own – Still Travelling
In 2001, I designed a method for processing very large batches of wells through a rigorous normalization and QC check followed by a simplified calculation suite. Initially, Rakhit Petroleum Consultants provided the programming skills, hardware, and clients. When Rakhit was sold to a gas exploration company, my access to the software was impossible due to potential conflict of interest. So I ported the concept to the GeoGraphix PRIZM petrophysical software package and continue to use it for large projects..  

1999Numerous jobs with 300 to 3000 wells each have been run for resource potential or reservoir properties assessment. We call the QC function SUPERLOG and the processing phase LOGFUSION.

Prototyping of each project is done with META/LOG, where parameters are optimized to give results that match core. Independently, stratigraphy, hydrodynamic, and production data are correlated and mapped by other members of the project team, then the log analysis results are generated, compared to ground truth, and mapped. Smaller jobs are still run in META/LOG without the hassle of database programs and inflexible hard-coded software.

1986 Testbook CoverThe course materials I had developed over the years became a hardcover textbook in 1986. A book needs more discipline than a set of course notes. I think I struck a happy medium position with “The Log Analysis Handbook”, based on my first 20 years of experience in petrophysics and software development. It was published by Pennwell and was a hard sell to the publisher because I insisted that the math be computer-ready instead of in academic style. Those who do real log analysis loved it – those with more academic approaches were cool.

But books are obsolete - dead as the dodo main-frame computers of the 1960's. A technical book is 2 years out of date before it hits Amazon and 12 years out of date before the second edition surfaces. Responsible use of the Internet can solve this, but it takes a lot of self-discipline and uncounted hours of hard work rto make it happen. Constant and timely updates, colour llustrations, support software, and interaction with the author make the Web the only practical tool for publishing in the current era.

In 2001, “Crain’s Petrophysical Handbook – 3rd Millennium Edition” became available on the Internet and on CD-ROM. It is an innovative approach to make petrophysics more accessible to everyone. Forty years of experience, 300 topics, hundreds of case histories, computer ready math, and instant updates make this venture truly unique in technical publishing.

Version 3.12 of the Handbook was uploaded for 2012, with even wider coverage of the field of Integrated Petrophysics. The eBook is now augmented by 38 audio-visual narrated lectures and 10 pretty-print eText Reference Manuals, for those who insist on the tangible feel of real paper.

Using these materials, I teach a multitude of in-house courses, although the Practical Quantitative Log Analysis Seminar is the most popular.

Where were you on 11 September 2001? I was starting a seminar at Teknica in Calgary an hour after watching the second plane smash into the Twin Towers. Totally unreal and unbelievable! But it was real. Needless to say, we didn't get a lot done that day, or for some time thereafter. Hindsight shows that nearly 3000 people died, including the passengers and crew of four airliners, firefighters and rescue workers, and early morning office workers in New York and the Pentagon.

If you thought it was all about oil, you were probably right.

More than 4000 soldiers from many nations, 300,000 Iraqi's and uncounted 1000's of Afghans have been killed since that day. Where is another Kennedy when you need him? The repercussions are still rippling around the world, causing enormous expense in ineffective security measures, loss of liberty and freedom for many, loss of productivity, and exhausting delays for air travelers. Kind o counter-productive, I think. But all this should be a good incentive for more telecommuting.

2003 Bogota CourseThe Canadian Foreign Affairs website says "Don't Go!" but I went anyway, with Denis Briere as assistant instructor and seeing-eye person. The folks in Bogota were generous and showed us the city and its excellent restaurants. At our first cafe, the ringing melody of Murray McLaughlin's "Snow Bird" was blasting from the loudspeakers, with a tiny hint of a Spanish accent. The course flowed smoothly with the help of two excellent simultaneous translators and Denis's command of technical Spanish.

TU logoI was invited by University of Tulsa in 2004 to teach petrophysics  as part of the TU LEADER program they run for Schlumberger engineers. Ten trips a year through George Bush's Homeland Security personnel at Calgary and Tulsa makes the real Purgatory seem pretty tame. Merely asking a civil question is enough to get you banned from a flight at United Airlines, which may be an oversensitive reaction to their problems on 9/11. The TU Continuing Education team are a great bunch of people to work for. The students are the cream of Schlumberger's young engineers from all parts of the world. The conviviality of such a mix of languages, faiths, and political influences is a model the rest of world could strive for. Working with them has been truly rewarding.
Unfortunately the program ended in 2009 as the recession trimmed training and expansion budgets.

UofC logoIn 2005, Dr. Rob Stewart at University of Calgary invited me to assist in curriculum design and presentation for a new Petrophysics course for 3rd year geology and geophysics students. The course is still evolving and growing more coherent each year. About 90 students a year go through my labs and lectures, as well as those of 3 other instructors. Young and naive about the reality of the oil industry, I hope this exposure will reinforce the need for integrated petrophysics in their future careers. My involvement ended in 2008 when Rob moved to Houston.

In 2009, I formed a strategic alliance with Dorian Holgate of Aptian Technical Ltd that provided a graceful transition of the consulting work into younger hands and younger eyes. This has proved to be a very profitable arrangement for both of us and for our clients. Every job gets multiple reviews from two independent brains with a combined practical experience of over 65 years.

Teaching courses took me to London, Houston, Oklahoma City, and of course Calgary.

In most democracies, the "ayes" have it. In my case, the eyes have had it, so my consulting and teaching gigs ended at the end of 2015. The low oil price and worldwide layoffs that reduced "external costs" to near zero helped push this decision. Retirement is great -- fewer deadlines, less paperwork, no data qualty quagmires. What's not to like?

My career in a nutshell: a lot of cities and countries, a lot of rig camps and hotels, lots of Arctic cold and some desert heat, more hurry-up and wait, long hours and short pleasures for 54 years, Add 35 concurrent years as a rancher, with some time off to play with model trains, you have a pretty full picture of my life. Vision loss be damned!

Going Home - Briefly
ViaRail "Banff Park", our bedroom, bar and lounge dome observation car
I had not been back to Montreal since Expo 67. In 2012, I took the ViaRail "Canadian" from Edmonton to Toronto, continued on to Ottawa, then drove with my brother and his wife to Montreal to see our old homes, schools, and other haunts. Amazingly, they were much as I remembered, with little change or decline. Old Montreal has been beautifully restored, a far-cry from the grubby, hectic harbourfront of my youth. Faster highways, the Metro, and lack of English signs are the only outward signs of progress, but the downtown traffic and pedestrians are still frantic. Commuter trains are streamlined diesels instead of steamers, but when it rains you can still smell the coal dust in the ballast.

Art deco sign at Chalet BBQPrevious commitments meant I could not attend the McGill Engineering "Class of 62" 50th anniversary reunion in October, but Bob Smythe, an old school chum, escorted me around McGill, commenting knowledgably on all the changes and additions. The lower campus still feels like the refuge it has always been. New and renovated buildings push outward on the perimeter. Activists are still active, freshmen looking lost still troop the pathways. Afterward, we checked out Westmount and Mont Royal lookouts to compare the skyline with old postcard views from the 1950's. Later that day, we relived the family outing to Chalet BBQ on Sherbrooke St West -- menu, flavour, location, and staff (or their clones) unchanged since 1944. "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose".

Montreal Tramways #1 "Gold Car" open-air observation streetcar at ExpoRail Museum, near MontrealThe best memory brought back in force was the ride on the "Gold Car", an open-air sightseeing streetcar at ExpoRail (Canada's Railway Museum) that used to run in summer in Montreal. This was our favourite outing when we were kids in the 1940's and 50's. The ride, and the tour of the Museum, was escorted by Steve Cheasley, the museum President, who generously provided a personalized commentary on the background and significance of each exhibit. It was a wonderful  re-visit to the railways of my youth, all the way back to my grandparents early days, with some of the best restorations in the world on display.

A few maples were just beginning to redden, the weather was clear and mild, and the train trips across half the continent were very restful. I thought I would feel more nostalgic, even sad, to see these memories brought to life again, but it was - thankfully - really pleasant. They say "you can't go home again", but this trip was pretty close. Like the airline pilots say before landing in New Zealand, "Set your watches back 40 years" -- Montreal is in that time zone too.

The Vehicles In My Life
I haven't driven a car since 1984, and I miss the freedom to go where I wanted, when I want. The memories are easy to bring back anytime I need to, even after more than 30 years, by looking at these tiny photos.

1959 Austin A55 Mk II                  1948 MG-TD            1965 Austin A60 Stn Wagon        1968 MGB-GT        

1973 Mustang II GT             1947 MG-TC                    1982 Chevy S10

1949 MG-TD #2                 1976 Ford F250 and Trailer         1978 Eord Econoline

      MF 1200            MF 285 and Hesston Stackmaker     Caterpillar D-2

MF 210-4                     MF 2645                        MF 1805

The Critters In My Life
They kept me sane during the tougher times. (* = Rescued)

Benjamin 1953 - 1960       *Simon 1954 - 1962          

* Cana 1970 - 1983        * Charlie 1982 - 1984             * Chief 1971 - 1984     

Chuckles 1971 - 1995


Chulalonkorn and Rama 4th #1                           Chulalonkorn and Rama 4th #2
1971 - 1983                                                        1983 - 2005

      *Socks 1989 - 2000          * Missus Socks 1989 - 1998

Cochise 1975 - 1987        * Sancho #1 1983 - 1995              * Zara 1987 - 2001

Rocky Bear 1995 - 2007                     * Sancho #2 1999 - 2012

* Magnus 2010 - 2015                   Magnus and Lady 2012                       * Lady 2012 - 2013