Adventures in the remote

The rig was at a place so remote, it was outside the range of cellphone service. The toolpush had to drive out of the bush and then sit in his truck while we talked. His nearest connection with the world was 30 km away from the site.

He called at 8 p.m. Friday night. They were in the middle of a rig move, and the boiler’s burner flame wouldn’t stay on. The temperature was -37C, with a wind chill of -50.

Before you go on a service call, you need lots of good information to make sure you’re bringing the right parts. With people’s safety at stake and downtime costs exceeding $20,000 an hour, you don’t have the option of coming out to take a look and then driving around for parts.

I sent him back to take pictures, and he returned from the bush again to call me back.

“Can you bring me some gas too?” he said. “I actually ran out.”

Usually they ask me to bring newspapers and snacks when I go on a service call. This was the first time I was bringing fuel so that my client could get out of the bush.

We arrived at the rig site. Inside the boiler building there was an inch of ice on the floor. Stalagmites of ice were growing as the condensation on the ceiling dripped. An ice chipper and tiger torch were propped in the corner.

Burner parts were scattered all over the floor.

It didn’t take long to fix the problem and get the burner going again. Sighs of relief all around.

It was the kind of service call that reminds you of survival. How we take constant communications for granted…

How in the middle of the bush, you really are disconnected with the world…

How the remote wilderness puts you in your place.