A Modern Day Odyssey

The primary task of an SPE Distinguished Lecturer is to provide an engaging presentation of the best  technology of the oil and natural gas industry to the far corners of the world for the some 170 SPE Sections, from Grayville, Illinois to Perth, Australia.  Occasionally, that commitment takes on monumental proportions, especially when a volcano intervenes, such as Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul did recently.

Dr. Steve Tipton of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Tulsa certainly qualifies as a modern day Odysseus, rivaling the famous Greek’s travels and travails.  Rather than from Ithaca, the island in Greece, to Troy (not New York), Steve’s Odyssey went from Stavanger, Norway to Paris, via Prague, Munich and a few other stops, a distance of some 5300 kilometers (3300 miles), by just about every mode of transportation, except moped or bicycle.  Steve had committed to give presentations to SPE Sections in Trondheim, Stavanger, Great Yarmouth, Vienna and Croatia, over eight days from April 14 to the 22nd.  Then “Eyjafa”, the Iceland volcano, intervened, sort of like Cyclops did to Odysseus.  This time, Cyclops was a one-eyed Norwegian boxer on his way to a boxing match.

Steve had to take a bus, a taxi, a ferry, a train on a ferry and several other trains, including 6 hours of riding standing up during the 46 hour trip between Stavanger and Vienna.  Several times, Steve had to make fruitless trips to the airport and train station just to see if transportation had become available.  In the original Odyssey, Princess Nausicaa helps Odysseus get home, but in this version, Steve helped a lady in the Munich train station find her way home.  And just like the good King Alcinous of Phaeacia helped Odysseus, StatOil’s Geir Titlestad made it possible for Steve to finally accomplish his travels.  In addition, Ms. Donna Neukum, the Distinguished Lecture Program Manager, and her staff made countless reservations to try to help him along.  Fortunately, Steve did not report any problems with nymphs, Charybdis or Scilla.

By the same token, Distinguished Lecturer Mr. Mike Gunningham, Sakhalin Energy Investments, spent five unanticipated days with the opportunity to become better acquainted than he expected with the scenery and attractions of Springtime Moscow.

The diligence and commitment for the Distinguished Lecture program that Messrs. Tipton and Gunningham exhibited have really set the standard for all the lecturers.  Sometimes, it is necessary to make the extra effort, experience some pretty serious discomfort and sleeplessness to accomplish the mission.  It isn’t always about five star hotels, business class airplane seats and a day off between lectures.

Steve, Mike and all you other Lecturers, the SPE Distinguished Lecture Committee and the Society at large thank you for your extra effort.