Friday, 27 July 2018

Chasing Black Gold by Robert Stone


The Incredible True Story of a Fuel Smuggler in Africa

ROBERT STONE was a serial entrepreneur – an enterprising individual, mostly on the wrong side of the law, who spent twenty-five years operating all over the world, before being arrested in Switzerland as a result of an international manhunt led by an Organised Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Over the course of his career, Stone earned and lost several lifetimes’ worth of fortunes, went to prison on three continents, used dozens of aliases, saw men die, and masterminded one of the biggest marijuana smuggling operations in criminal history. Fuel smuggling in Africa, trading fuel with generals, rebels and businessman, was both his career high and, ultimately, what brought him down.




Guest Post by Robert Stone:
Chasing Deep Gold 
Part 3

Chasing Deep Gold is the working title for next non-fiction book. It is a prequel to my book Chasing Black Gold and based on my commercial diving career in the 1970’s and early 80’s.

In late August 1976 a couple other divers and myself boarded a private jet in Vancouver and flew to Inuvik in The Northwest Territories in Canada. From there I took a small aircraft and travelled to Tuktoyaktuk which is above the Artic Circle. I walked over to a waiting helicopter which flew me out to a drillship in The Beaufort Sea.

An iceberg had knocked over a wellhead. Gas and water were blowing out of control into sea 200 -300 foot below. The project manager met with us and explained we only had 4-6 weeks left before the ice pack would come in and force us off location.

We went and picked out our hot water suits and other personal gear from the dive locker. Hot water suits are loose fitting suits that have perforated tubes that allow hot water to flow around you and keep you warm. Sometimes it would be too cold and I still have the scars from when it was too hot.

The water here was about 26-27 °F on the bottom. If we lost our hot water supply on the bottom we would have less than a minute before we would lose the ability to function.

There were already 6 divers in Sat and the 3 who had to decompress and come out were not too happy with us showing up to do ‘their’ work. In those days, maybe the same today, there was very little diving off a drill ship so the dive crew were usually not very experienced. Whenever an emergency happened they would have to send for divers who knew how to handle more serious situations.

I made the first bell run and went out to inspect the well head. The water was not quite slush but close. When you swung your arm through the water you could see lines. As I was doing this a seal came right up face to face with me and startled the hell out of me!

They were going to try pumping cement and mud down and it would be our job to hook things up and monitor the situation.

Nothing worked and the well continued to blow. In late September I was on bottom tending my bell partner when topside hollered over the radio to get the diver back to the bell immediately. I started hauling up on his umbilical until it went tight. The ship had had an explosion which blew the steam lines that were heating our hot water. The diver freed his umbilical and I continued to pull him in. He lost consciousness on the way back. He hung up on the chains and I had no choice but to go out and get him.

I put my Kirby Morgan Band mask on, flooded the bell and jumped into the tunnel. The icy water burned me and the shock as the water hit my head almost put me into shock. I grabbed the limp diver and pulled us both back in. I blew down the bell and pushed him against the side as the water level went down pass the opening and I slammed the hatch shut and felt my ears pop as the pressure built indicating we had a seal.

They started to winch the bell up as I took our hats off. I was shaking almost uncontrollably but it took awhile to bring him back around.

The ice pack came in and forced off location. We iced the ship in by Herschel Island in The Yukon. This meant an ice breaker broke up the 16 foot deep ice. We lowered a life boat down and dove off this. We wore a dry suit and you had to wriggle your way down through the ice till you got underneath it then swim to the hull of the ship. There we inflated buoys inside the thruster tunnels so when the water froze it would crush the buoys instead of expanding and breaking the ship apart.

It was -55 °F when we left the Artic.

That well blew out of control for 10 months. Thank God it wasn’t oil.


Author Bio:

Author Robert Stone first came to Aberdeen Scotland in 1973 as a pioneer saturation diver in the early dangerous days of the North Sea. Retiring from diving in the mid 80’s he became a serial entrepreneur –mostly on the wrong side of the law. He spent the next decade operating businesses all over the world from his Aberdeenshire home.

Stone earned and lost several fortunes, went to prison on three continents, used dozens of aliases, and masterminded one of the biggest marijuana smuggling operations in criminal history. Fuel smuggling in Africa, was only one of his many exploits.

His Scottish wife and young children knew nothing of the dark side of his life until the day they were all arrested in Switzerland as a result of an international manhunt led by an Organised Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.


The History Press


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