Fire On The Horizon

Published Nov 21, 2012 11:07 AM by Tony Munoz

Off the Shelf:

FIRE ON THE HORIZON: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster by John Konrad & Tom Shroder (HarperCollins, 2011)

By Tony Munoz

Fire on the Horizon is a fast-paced story about the Transocean workers who would eventually be at the center of the greatest oil-related disaster in U.S. history. As Americans painfully watched 4.9 million barrels of oil gush from the failed blowout preventer for months, killing thousands of birds, endangered turtles and dolphin and devastating hundreds of miles of wetlands along the Gulf Coast, BP’s media incompetent CEO, Tony Hayward, and his top executives simply disintegrated before our eyes as they paraded “Junk Shot” and “Top Kill” as solutions for the ecological nightmare. Meanwhile, Gulf Coast communities and industries slid closer and closer into economic crisis from both the actual spill and the federal government’s halting of drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Humanizing this great American tragedy is the essence of Konrad and Shroder’s work. From his early years at SUNY Maritime to moving rigs out of shipyards in Korea to the decks of the Deepwater Horizon hovering 5,000 feet above Macondo 252, one of the richest oil finds in the Gulf of Mexico, Konrad’s ability to dissect the lives of mariners and rig workers is a powerful resource in moving the book forward to its ultimate crescendo. Macondo had been a troublesome well to drill and was over budget. Decisions by BP to begin cutting corners, end drilling operations and cement the wellhead only made matters worse and further exasperate the helpless reader. Konrad and Shroder do a masterful job in creating anxiety and concern for the doomed rig workers even though the outcome is already known.

On April 20, 2010, at 2145 hours on Block 252 of the Mississippi Canyon, all hell breaks loose as loud hissing and methane gases overcome the rig. Suddenly, explosions rock the platform as terrified workers begin to realize the frightening reality that Macondo is a blowout. As the explosions continue and thick black smoke fills every escape route, the accounts of confusion and fear are overwhelming. Soon men are jumping in the water thinking they had made it, only to discover that their skin was on fire from the flaming oily seas. Many men were saved that day, but eleven men died. The authors skillfully remind us that the Deepwater Horizon workers were just ordinary people with families and that rig jobs allowed them a better life. They also remind us that companies are in the business of making money and have their own agenda. Fire on the Horizon is a must-read and can be found in bookstores everywhere. – MarEx

John Konrad is a veteran oil rig captain and former employee of the Deepwater Horizon’s owner, Transocean. He is also the founder of gCaptain.com, the maritime industry’s leading blog. A graduate of SUNY Maritime, he lives with his wife and children in Morro Bay, California.

Tom Shroder was an editor and writer at the Washington Post from 1999 to 2009. Under his stewardship, the Washington Post Magazine won the Pulitzer Prize for featured writing in both 2008 and 2010. He is the author of the nonfiction bestseller, Old Souls, and lives in Vienna, Virginia.


The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.