Sunday, 5 February 2017

Háleygur's Moment

[Media prompt] An attempt to drill into the heart of a volcano in the south-west of Iceland is now complete. Geologists have penetrated 4,659m down, creating the deepest-ever volcanic borehole.

Háleygur's Moment

Háleygur Einarsson leaned into the pallet with his shoulder and grunted. He was a big man who had discerned during his short life that few objects were immoveable.

“Hey, Tiny,” said one of the Australians who are inevitably found working on international engineering projects in remote locations, “put your back into it, you piker.”

Háleygur found the Australian’s sobriquet for him disquieting at first. He weighed fifteen pounds at birth, and had been called “bloody enormous” by everyone ever since. It wasn’t until he heard the Australians calling their most reserved countryman “rowdy” that he understood their humour.

Háleygur put his back into it, shunting five hundred kilograms of core samples across the steel truck tray. He drew a tarpaulin over the pallet, threw two tie downs over the whole load, and while the driver made them tight jumped off the truck.

“I finally worked out why you Aussies always travel together.” Without waiting he continued: “Because three of you share one brain.” He laughed, patting the Australian on the back. “Only kidding, mate,” he added. He said mate so that it rhymed with hut. The Australian smiled. “I’ve told you a thousand time, you bloody dwarf, I don’t parlez-vous Icelandic.”

Háleygur liked the Australians. They said what they meant, worked hard, and were loyal. And on the Reykjanes peninsula that meant something.

“Anyway, the boss wants us over at the borehole,” the Australian said.

“Why?” said Háleygur. He still had to load two more pallets, and Dr. Fridleifsson had made it clear earlier in the morning that the truck needed to get away before noon. The Australian shrugged. “Bugger’d if I know.”

When they reached the drilling rig, there was a crowd of twenty or more men, standing around in groups talking to each other. Háleygur stood at the back. He could comfortably see over everyone’s head. His mind was on the two remaining pallets and the driver, who would be cursing him for the delay, and he only nodded briefly to some of the men standing near him.

After Dr. Fridleifsson came out of the site office, he stood near the steps and the men huddled around him in a semi-circle.

“We’ve gone as far we want to go,” he said. “4,659 metres.”

Some of the men nodded. Drilling deep was never easy, and this well had posed more problems than most. They were proud of what they had achieved, and if the next step went to plan they would be able to say they were involved in something important, something great for Iceland.

Dr. Fridleifsson said, “We capped our well this morning, and Phase Two will begin soon.”

Háleygur looked up at the drilling rig behind the site office. Behind it, the sky was clear; one of those rare days where Greenland seemed just over the horizon. He could hear Dr. Fridleifsson’s voice, but it sounded far away, like the white-tailed eagle circling high above the site. Then he heard the voices of other men, loud shouts, and someone bumped into him. “There’s something down there,” said one of the men as he ran past.

As the ‘whoop-whoop-whoop’ of the emergency siren grew louder, Háleygur watched a fiery hand emerging from the borehole. Someone shouted for him to get on the truck before it was too late, but Háleygur Einarsson didn’t respond.

This was his moment.

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