With the assistance of former Washington Post contributor Shroder (Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence For Past Lives, 1999), veteran oil-rig captain Konrad guides readers through the culture and daily life of offshore drilling on the Deepwater Horizon.
Konrad worked seven years for Transocean, the owner of Horizon, which exploded into flames in April 2010, taking 11 lives and leaking more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. He comes at the story from the perspective of the people who do the work to get the oil. In so doing, he provides a complementary angle on the event to Carl Safina’s A Sea in Flames (2011), with its emphasis on corporate malfeasance and the blowout’s social and environmental impacts. First, Konrad introduces the Horizon, which, even in its outdated state, was an awesome construction, a floating drilling platform the size of an office park, with computer-controlled dynamic positioning that could keep it over a 20-square-foot target a mile under the surface of the ocean. Konrad writes of the rig with easy familiarity, while comfortably populating it with its maritime and drilling crews and warmly conveying the camaraderie that suffused the platform. Though the author comes from a maritime background, he turns the drilling process into a fine choreography, offering an effective critique of the corporate edicts that jeopardized the safety of the rig’s people and the integrity of the exploratory well. The corporate atmosphere was complex, however—one moment finds Transocean working hard to avoid common-hazard injuries, then cutting back on crew just when the aging rig needed them most for preventative maintenance. Konrad’s gavel comes down on corporate irresponsibility, and the consequences of the poor, indeed criminal, decision making is palpably, gruesomely expressed as the author screws down his focus to the last few days of the Horizon, concentrating on a few individuals in an absorbing re-creation of the disaster’s brewing, mayhem and horror.
A lucid investigation into the fatally risky business that caused the blowout, which, by putting human faces on many players, amplifies the ache.