First to find

Rolf “Rocky” Øverland was sitting in the control room when Ocean Traveler made the initial oil strike on the NCS. But it would take 32 years to bring this discovery on stream as the Balder field.
  • Eldbjørg Vaage Melberg

The resources in well 25/11-1 were not initially commercial. Nor could they compare with the huge Ekofisk find two years later. Nevertheless, their discovery marked an important milestone in the history of the NCS.

Oil was encountered by the Odeco rig, on charter to Esso, in midsummer 1967 in 126 metres of water and at a depth of 2 283 metres beneath the seabed in production licence 001.

It was a normal day at work for Øverland, who had joined Norway’s nascent offshore industry late the previous autumn on Ocean Traveler – the first rig to drill on the NCS.

His job in the control room was to keep the vessel stable. Then as now, it involved a 12-hour shift followed by 12 hours off – and he spent one week on the rig with the next free.

Those were the days when North Sea personnel went to work wearing shirt, tie, overcoat and hat. Øverland was 22 years old at the time, and a qualified car mechanic.

He had previously worked for Brødrene Kverneland near Stavanger. His colleagues were Americans who had accompanied the rig from the USA, and other young Norwegians with backgrounds in industry, fishing or farming.

“The Americans wanted folk they knew could work hard,” recalls Øverland, who estimates Stavanger had about 250 people associated with the oil sector in 1966. Roughly 100 were Americans.

“There were otherwise personnel in the operator companies, the rig contractors and other suppliers, the supply base, the helicopter service – and at Rogaland Radio, which kept us in touch with land.”

Øverland’s job on Ocean Traveler marked the start of a long career in the oil business, which did not come to an end until he retired last Christmas after 48 years in the industry.


Ocean Traveler

The Ocean Traveler rig found Norwegian oil 2 283 metres beneath the seabed in 1967.
(Photo: Nordal Torstensen/Norwegian Petroleum Museum)