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Western Islander Launched

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

Story by Mike King, originally published in the 1972 Fall Western Profile

This month we continue our theme from last month recounting the early history of Western Geophysical’s boat building escapades with the launching of the Western Islander in Singapore in 1972. Enjoy!

Recounted by Scott Singleton

The Doodlebugger Diary recounts the experiences of geophysicists during their working lives. I’ve published extensively on my own experiences and encourage those of you with experiences of your own to also contribute. Your fellow industry professionals would love to hear your stories.

I’ve been occasionally reprinting a series of early 1980’s articles from the GSI Shotpoints and GSI Grapevine that can be found at I also have reprinted various Western Geophysical Profile articles. These can be found at Last month I reprinted a history of Western’s early boat-building escapades. Over the next few month’s I’ll dive into the stories of some of these boats.

The Western Geophysical I
Figure 1: The Western Geophysical I is hoisted onto a large freighter for transport to the Netherlands, where it will arrive with a clean hull, without wear end tear, and all ready to begin operations in the North Sea.

Prolog by Scott Singleton

I never saw the Western Endeavor, but that’s because I was in the Gulf. Western was building these things all around the world. They all had similar design (at least until they started building larger and larger monster boats). The smaller ones were designed to be able to get into shallow water. The Endeavor was longer than the Green Meanies in the Gulf (they had 90’ lengths on the waterline with an additional 10’ on the back deck), at least until Western started building the Cay / Cape class of boats with a length of 135’. But the Endeavor falls right in this class. Enjoy!

Figure 2: Gathered in Singapore at keel laying ceremonies for the Western Islander are, from the left: Marine Supervisor Crawford Rushing; Marine Engineer Mario Lister; Weng Chan Shipyard Managing Director Victor Choy; Marine Supervisor Archie Flowers; Weng Chan Director Sam Choy; and, from the American Bureau of Shipping, Guadenzio Bracco.

Singapore, Feb. 1972 Lingering in the memories of many Westerners and non-Westerners in Singapore, will be Sunday, February 13. On this day a new member of Western’s fleet, the Western Islander, was launched by Cyndi Nicholls, young daughter of Vice President C. W. (Chic) Nicholls and wife Bonnie. It was a proud moment for all of those concerned with the project, but Vice President Nicholls and Marine Supervisor Archie Flowers who had nursed the project along from an idea into a reality the finished product, were delighted to see the vessel in the water.

Mornings in Singapore are usually bright and clear, and the day of the launching proved to be no exception. Over 400 guests, including distinguished visitors from Indonesia representatives from the Singapore government, our friends from the oil companies, and a good sprinkling of Westerners, gathered at Weng Chan shipyard to see the first-ever launching of a seismic vessel in the Republic of Singapore.

Figure 3: Lion Dancers perform prior to launching to ward off evil and to bring the ship good fortune.

Before we proceed with the day's events, however, let us present to you the new addition to the Western fleet. It can truly claimed that the Islander stands in a class of its own as it is the only seismic vessel in the world designed especially to work in both deep and shallow water. It carries both a streamer cable and a floating cable and thus has the ability to complete all aspects of a marine survey without having to return to base to re-equip. Being triple screwed and having a bow thruster make her extremely maneuverable and able to hold her position when shooting shallow-water 'back down" operations. The vessel is rigged for AQUAPULSE and MAXIPULSE operations and navigates using WINS or Shoran. Statistically she is 120 feet long and has a 32-foot beam. The Western Islander is air-conditioned throughout, with accommodation for 29 crew men. Best of all she has a draft of only 3 feet to permit operations in really shallow water On arrival at the shipyard the guests were greeted by the smell of burning incense, the sound of incantations, and the sight and sound of Singapore's famous Lion Dancers, all of which, according to Chinese legend, ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune to the vessel. Meanwhile, refreshments were being served by the charming "Tiger" girls. On completion of the Lion Dancing ceremony, the official party entered the launching platform, where garlands and gifts were exchanged. This all must have brought back memories to Mrs. Nicholls, who launched the Western Endeavour in October 1969. After brief speeches by our vice president and Mr. Choy, of Weng Chan's, the Launch Lady stepped forward to perform her duties, which she carried out extremely well. In a sweet, clear voice and with accurate aim, she christened the vessel with the traditional bottle of champagne.

Figure 4: The Western Islander stands ready for launching ceremonies at the shipyard in Singapore.

That evening a reception and buffet dinner were held at the Mandarin Hotel. Westerner John Hoogeveen, who caters the Western vessels in the Far East area, did an excellent job in arranging this function. A spray of Singapore orchids was presented to each lady, and a buffet of Singaporean, Indonesian, American, French, and Swiss types of food was greatly enjoyed by all. An oil industry theme dominated the room decorations, with some made from margarine, including an excellent replica of the Islander, and others of ice.

Figure 5: Officially launched, the Western Islander moves from the platform, splashing into the sea.


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