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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Meet the Doodlebuggers! Wait... what's a Doodlebugger?!

No seismic expedition is possible without it's hard-working Doodlebuggers! One of our own doodlebuggers, Shaun, gives us the full breakdown of seismic life at sea!

By Shaun Shaver
Showing students how to keep track of the streamer deployment

The official Doodlebugger patch
As defined in the Urban Dictionary and edited for this blog: Term for field seismic personnel. Differentiated from a roughneck by their actual coarseness... Doodlebuggers search out oil, natural gas, and other precious commodities the world around by exciting the ground with explosives, drop weights, and more often than not pieces of specialized heavy equipment called vibrators or air guns. They work in the most extreme climates, brave the most dangerous countries, and suffer some of the worst wages in the oil and gas industry. Most importantly, doodlebuggers are renowned for their ability to drink. Doodlebuggers often work in camps in the middle of nowhere, and are rarely seen in their natural environment. Easily identified by their pot bellies and lack of shaving. They tell the BEST stories.... 

Meet Shaun!
Having worked as a Doodlebugger for close to 37 years, I have a pretty good idea of what the job entails and the lifestyle that it creates. 

In reality a Doodlebugger is a hardworking man or woman in the oil and gas industry, either on land or at sea on a seismic vessel. I can’t speak too much about the “Land Crews” but normally they work longer trips in worse environments than the ocean based crews (if the weather is ok).

Marine Doodlebuggers consist of 2 departments; Seismic and Maritime. The Maritime crew; Captain, Officers, Deck Hands, Engineers and last but certainly not least the Cooks and Stewards. Their role is to keep the vessel in “ship-shape” condition and running smoothly and safely. A well fed crew is always a happier crew. One Golden Rule, Never Annoy the Cook!! 

Doodlebuggers Matt, Todd and Josh keep an eye on the deployment off the starboard stern

The seismic crew is led by the Party Chief. He/She is the most senior member and in overall charge of the seismic activity and data quality. They work closely with the on board client reps and the office to ensure that the program is completed within the specifications and delivered on time to the client. As the title would suggest, The Party Chief is also in charge of buying at least a couple of rounds when the crew is back on land. 

Holding down the Navigation Screen Fort in the main lab

The 3 other roles within the seismic crew are all unique in what their responsibilities entail. Let’s start with the Navigation Department. A.k.a. Navigators, Nava-guessers or just Nav for short. Their main job is to keep the vessel “On-Line” as it acquires seismic data. High quality data is useless if we don’t accurately and precisely record where it was collected. They do have other duties, such as survey planning with the Party Chief, processing the navigation data after each seismic line is acquired and keeping their “in-sea” equipment ready for deployment. They are very often assisted by the “gunners.” 

Chris enjoying some quality time with one of the streamers up on deck

The next role is known as the “Observers”, “Obbies” or ACQ department. They work alongside the Navigators in the Instrument Room, Recording Room or Lab as it is called on Research vessels. They are tasked at insuring that the seismic cables and recording systems are capturing the precious seismic data. They are also found on the back deck deploying or recovering the seismic cables.

Josh explains how the air guns work to our science party during the induction

Last but by far not least the Mechanic, Handling Specialist or most commonly known as, “Gunner”, rounds out the list of seismic roles. Gunners are the mechanics, engineers and the “GO TO” seismic crew for just about everyone on the vessel. One of their traits is the ability to, “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome” any mechanical obstacle. Their main role is to maintain the energy source that is being used to obtain the seismic data. They started with dynamite and moved to air guns and vibrators. Land crews still use vibrators today, but they are much larger and mounted to large “Buggies”. Nowadays the air gun is the energy source used in marine seismic. Imagine the biggest air compressor at your local home improvement store. Now, strap a dozen of those together, charge them up and release all that power at once. (WARNING: trying this at home will likely land you in the hospital, and quite possibly the on the news.) Repeat this process every fifteen seconds or so for weeks on end. Needless to say, that activity is rough on the equipment, so things break often. The gunners are also tasked with keeping all the back deck equipment in perfect working order. The list of equipment is too varied and long for this blog. Just believe me when I say they have a lot to do on a large multi-streamer vessel. One last note with regards to the Gunner, never use this job description on any visa application!!! 

If you are interested in more detail and the history of the Doodlebugger please check out these links:

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