Classic Magazine Photos, Then and Now from the New York Times Magazine
In a forthcoming book, the New York Times takes a look back at photos and revisits the subjects and where they are now. This photo of an oil crew in Kuwait really stood out to me. It looks surreal. Read their story below.
Names: From left, Ken Rose and Mark Badick.
Ages: 38, 28
Photograph by: Sebastião Salgado
From: “The Kuwaiti Inferno” (June 9, 1991), a photo essay about the crews charged with extinguishing Kuwait’s burning oil wells after the first gulf war.
Ken Rose: It was our very first well in Kuwait, and it was a real lesson for us. It wasn’t difficult, as far as the fire aspect, but getting it apart, with the amount of oil that was flowing, proved to be quite a task. There were nine of us on that crew, and we did 180 fires in that particular sequence. But it really brought the whole team together. And it was a pure adrenaline rush.
I was in the oil patch for my entire professional career, on the production side of things. I was working for an oil company when I had a similar blowout in Northern Alberta back in 1985. I brought the Safety Boss team in to do that well for us. The owner and I struck up a pretty good friendship, and when he was going over to Kuwait in ’91, I asked if he needed any engineering staff, and he said, “You’re on the next plane, which is leaving on Thursday.”
I left Safety Boss after Kuwait to manage an oil-pipeline company. I retired in February 2000, and I’m loving it. And now, my associate and I, we’ve got a small charter-fishing business in Cabo San Lucas to keep us amused.
Mark Badick: I grew up in the oil industry, working for various service companies, and that’s how I ended up in the well-control business at Safety Boss. At the Kuwait well in ’91, I was crew chief; before that, I was a blowout specialist, working in and around the well head.
After Kuwait, I went back to college and got an engineering degree. I came back to the company after I graduated, and I just left Safety Boss for good in 2008. To be honest, it just wasn’t fun anymore. There’s pretty high pressure because of the costs of the job, and if it’s not fun, that’s when people get hurt. It’s one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. If things go bad, they go really bad, and they go bad fast. But I just love the thrill of the chase. Besides, how do you follow that up?
Today I work for an oil company in downtown Calgary called Nexen. Ken and I e-mail, but he goes to Mexico for the winter, so I haven’t seen him for quite a while. But, yeah, tell him to meet me in Red Deer, because he’s buying.