While reading Robbie Gries’ excellent book about pioneering female petroleum geologists in the AAPG, (GEO ExPro review), I was struck by the sense of fun running through so many of the anecdotes. These women had struggled hard to get into the profession and were frequently subjected to prejudice, disparagement and lack of recognition for their often groundbreaking work. Yet their fondest memories were of the excitement and good times they had, predominantly in the field but also in more mundane settings.
I am privileged to meet and interview a lot of people in the industry in the course of my work. Some have been in the business for decades and recall their early careers, when computers were in their infancy and they spent a lot of time in the field and had some pretty hairy adventures; many are younger, and although they tend to be in the office more than their predecessors, they still say what an exciting industry it is to be in. Yes, there are lows as well as highs, not just in oil prices and employment, but in the search for oil – bearing in mind that, despite all our high-tech capability, still less than 25% of wildcat wells are successful – the risk element seems to add to the excitement for many.
It has often been noted that geologists are a strange bunch, delighting in being outside whatever the weather in the search for that elusive outcrop and roughing it in some of the wilder corners of the earth. It was the same even in those early days, when the AAPG pioneers can be seen in photos clambering over rocks, geological hammer in one hand, long skirts gathered in the other – and broad grins on their faces. And I suppose it is the smile that sums it up – they’re having fun with like-minded people. As Cath Norman puts it: “I get to use the most advanced technologies outside the space race; to travel the world and hang out with very intelligent – and also wacky – people. What’s not to like?”
It is good to sometimes remember that, despite the inevitable trials and tribulations of working life, we are all very lucky. We have rewarding careers in an exciting industry – and get to have fun!