Anders Waale, who was then working at the Phillips Petroleum Company’s Norwegian head office in Oslo and who planned the visit, experienced the whole event at first hand.
I had got wind of the fact that Belgian oil company Petrofina, which had a 30 per cent stake in the Ekofisk licence, had invited Belgium’s King Baudouin to visit the field. I got quite a start when I heard this, and thought: ‘no way is he going out there without the King of Norway at least having the opportunity to be the first’.
On the advice of somebody I knew in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I immediately contacted the Palace and explained that we would very much like to have a visit from King Olav when he might wish to come. I don’t recall whether I mentioned the Baudouin trip. In any event, it turned out that His Majesty would very much like to visit the field. That admittedly happened after the Belgian monarch had been there. Both the preparations and actual visit were very interested. We organised everything from [the Phillips head office] in Bartlesville.
The chair and a couple of other people from Oklahoma took part and arrived at Oslo’s Fornebu airport in their own plane. We were due to fly His Majesty to Stavanger in the same aircraft the following day, but the wind proved to be pretty strong out on Ekofisk and it was a little doubtful that the helicopter would be able to make the trip. The deputy private secretary at the Palace called the evening before and asked us to check that the trip would quite definitely be made, otherwise the king would not set off. The people on Ekofisk reported that ‘there’s no problem as long as the helicopter isn’t blown off the deck, because we simply compensate for the wind’.
We flew the following morning to Stavanger, and the king appeared to be enjoying himself. One of his good yachting friends, Erik Anker, was on the flight, so a jovial tone was established from the start. A recent fire at Stavanger’s Sola Airport meant that the VIP room we were actually supposed to occupy could not be used, so His Majesty was shown to the airport manager’s office instead.
Before flying offshore, we had to don orange rubber suits. They were fairly close-fitting, so I’d called at an early stage to inquire about King Olav’s vital statistics. These proved a little difficult to obtain, and I ultimately had to promise to keep them to myself – which I’ve done. But he got the suit on, in any event. They were hot and uncomfortable.
The king was the last person to enter the helicopter. Michael Boxill, Helikopter Service’s chief pilot, had asked me in advance whether he should go through the safety procedures and so forth. I replied: ‘Naturally, you’ve got to do that’. Once on board, King Olav had been given a double seat to himself and Boxill wanted him to don his lifejacket and so on. His Majesty then said enough was enough. Boxill looked at me, and I signalled that he had better just get airborne. The flight went fine. A stiff wind was blowing when we landed, but the king was naturally familiar with that – he had been a sailor and so on. He simply bent a little into the wind and thought this was very good.
Since [the King of Sweden] has no oil to boast of over there, perhaps Your Majesty would like to give him a bottle as well, so that he has got a little to look at.
We had a very good visit, touring all the various installations. King Olav was very interested and asked a lot of questions. Everything went well. I remember that when I entered the VIP room at Fornebu, just before we were due to depart, I had brought with me a couple of small bottles containing Ekofisk crude which the company used to give away. Not many people had seen the oil, its consistency and so forth.
I presented one to the king, which he thought was very kind and showed his appreciation for. Then I pulled out the other flask and said: ‘I know the King of Sweden is due to visit next week. Since he has no oil to boast of over there, perhaps Your Majesty would like to give him a bottle as well, so that he has got a little to look at.’ King Olav laughed heartily at that, and said this was an excellent idea and he would do it. So he took both bottles with him.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Anders Waale interviewed by Kristin Øye Gjerde, 2 December 2002 (extract).
Mishaps during developmentEkofisk tank receives its first oil