Shattered Sudan | Drilling for Oil, Hoping for Peace, National Geographic: Dinka Oil Worker With Scarification | Oil Fields, Southern Sudan

Dinka Oil Worker With Scarification | Oil Fields, Southern Sudan

When the Dinkas go from the northern controlled oil fields back to their villages in southern Sudan, they have to take back routes so the soldiers don’t steal their supplies.

From my journal:

I’m up at four am to meet Yahia who is a security guy attached to GNPOC (Greater Nile Petroleum Company).  Yahia comes late to the airport and has this air about him that he just doesn’t care.  But he does get us on the company charter plane.

The pilots in this brand new beech aircraft registered in Malaysia are surprisingly young.  The pilot in the left seat bounces his leg and snaps his gum for the entire 2-hour trip.

We land in a modern Quonset hut oil company village—it doesn’t have the bleak blaring fluorescent tube feel of everything else in Sudan—even the embassy in DC had this bleak third world feel to it—this place is different.  The money spent here and the sensibilities are obviously from other cultures.  The ops manager is Scottish and one of those “anything you want—we’re here for you” kind of guys.  I tell him I want to start photographing now because I’ve only got 40 minutes of good light left this morning and his response is “right then… We’ll get you set up… take about thirty minutes in your room and then come by my office for a half-hour overview… then we’ll get right out there… We’ll just do anything you want.”  Just an asshole spewing bullshit…

So… in bad light we go to a pumping station that basically takes water out of the oil so it’s the right viscosity to move thru the pipeline.  There is a Chinese construction crew here putting insulation on the pipes.

I spend most of the day on the drilling platform in beating sun and 50 C heat.  They have huge fans at the top of the rig that really dry you out and the bottom line is I am extremely dehydrated and dopey

Tonight we are told we have to be on a flight at 9:30am and don’t have the whole day to work like they promised.  Paul blows a gasket and is on the sat phone well into the night trying to buy us another day out here.

 I convince the security guy (emotionless, unhelpful, scary goon that he is) to get up at 5am, drive almost two hours on pounding rough roads back to Rig 15 where I will be able to photograph for less than an hour at dawn before we have to leave to get back to our morning flight.

I knock on his door and amazingly, he is up already AND there is a driver with the car running waiting for us.  There is glass all over the floor of his room.  He’s a big man and he knocked the globe off the ceiling light last night and instead of sweeping it up, he’s just been walking over the glass all night.

Our driver goes like a banshee over these pummeling roads and we make it to Rig 15 in an hour and a half.  I photograph the tea ladies at dawn with the rig still lit up in the background and then go to the rig floor, but nothing is happening and then it is time to leave.  They only let me work for about 15 minutes.  Now it is another hour and a half down dirt oil company roads and onto the plane.  Everyone is frisked when they leave the camp, but not when they come in on the plane.  Our security guy drives us back to the hotel in an older Nissan SUV with all the windows blacked out.  They’ve been blacked out a long time and are cracking with patches missing—Yahia drives as if no one else on the road matters.  I can tell from his driving that he could do horrible things to other people and still sleep at night.  Yahia has been with security for a long time—thru the entire “ghost house” period—he really creeps me out.

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