A robbery starts a revolution!

A knife-point robbery of a courier carrying a client’s data tapes started a life-changing collaboration between our very own COO of Geoscience and mentoring university students.

Following on from our last blog where Gehrig Schultz told us about his involvement with the University of Bucharest as an Industry mentor, he told us about an unusual incident early on his career which, with a bit of lateral thinking on his behalf, not only helped his client out but was a perfect opportunity to get valuable field experience for his students.


Gehrig takes up the story:

Stolen data

“In the early 1990’s was a frequent guest lecturer on seismic acquisition at both the Universidad Simon Bolivar and at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. I must have driven everyone crazy with my insistence that we had to put together a student geophysical field camp.

I got my chance in an unexpected way, when our messenger was robbed at gun point while he was bringing original data tapes from a client to our data processing centre.  The good news was that our insurance company would cover the cost that our client had paid ten years before for the data to be acquired, about US$ 40,000.  Unfortunately, the current cost to acquire the new data was about twice that.

My students can help!

“We had to come up with a way to acquire the data cheaply.  The only way we could come in on budget is if our labour was nearly free.  Of course – my students!  We then put together a program to acquire the data using a complete student crew.  We convinced our client (who also lectured at the Universities) to work with the students to design a new program to solve the geologic problem. 

Once a week during the semester, an expert from one of our crews would give a working seminar about some aspect of the acquisition – positioning, sources, recording, quality control.  Finally, we set out to the field with two buses labelled with big banners saying “USB – UCV Geophysical Student Project” filled with university students.


Union issues

“That night when we arrived at the camp we had outfitted for the project; the local union had blocked the gates.  The union leader was standing on a car bonnet shouting that there were really no students.  He claimed it was just a trick to bring in non-union labour from somewhere else.  Then the busses arrived, and the kids piled out.  The union leader stopped talking, climbed off the truck bonnet and snuck into the shadows. 

Job done!

“The student crew surveyed, deployed and recorded 16 km of seismic plus gravity, magnetics and electrical resistivity in 10 days.  The client got their data, we got the job done within the insurance payment, the students learned about field work and we got enough data for a bunch of thesis projects. 

After this initial success of the program, we ran six student field camps in Venezuela before the Chavez Revolution.”

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