Memoirs of a Gasman


This adventure is one not to forget for someone who has been associated with the industrial gases business since 1964. This gas adventurer is well known to many involved in the gases business in Southern Africa and on the global map through the auspices of ISO technical Committee TC58! His name? Albert Spencer.
Little did he know when he moved to South Africa in 1969 to start up Air Products’ business with the late Geoff Prevett, that his adventures would really begin in 2009 ­– 40 years on. Not so much ‘Back to the Future’ but instead, Back to Basics!
Albert’s adventure begins in Dar es Salaam, the gateway to the animal kingdom of the Serengeti (Simba, Nala et al) and close to Zanzibar – the old spice trading hub that lies between Africa and the Middle East. Albert’s task? To venture where no gas explorer had ever gone before!
His safari begins in the aforementioned Dar es Salaam – a relaxed city and one with thousands of happy smiles. After a day spent reviewing gas production facilities, Albert was up before the mists over the famous Rift Valley had even lifted, before dawn had broken across the deep blue Indian Ocean, and before most sane people. Although, he was heard to mutter, “I don’t do 4am’s.”
Arriving at Lake Victoria through the friendly town of Mwanza, he was torn between adventuring further to find the source of the Nile or inspecting another gas facility. As you would expect, he chose the latter – but did not find any CO2 there. Before long, lunchtime had arrived and he fancied the famous Nile Perch option.
“I’m sorry sir, we do not have any,” was the nervous reply of the Maitre d’ of the local restaurant. “What? No Nile Perch? But this place is famous for it,” he cried to no avail. The sun had set before the flight took off for Dar es Salaam, but a few cans (how many we were never told!) of the famous Tusker beer made amends for the lack of Nile Perch.
Albert is a hardened adventurer and he again arrived at Dar es Salaam airport before dawn had broken. “I don’t do 4am’s,” was again muttered several times. A small eight-seater, twin-engined Cessna was the day’s only luxury mode of transport – to Mbeya. This was followed by a four-wheeled drive into the deepest, rugged valleys of the surrounding mountains. Was this to lead to the source of the CO2 he was tasked with finding?
With a fine nose for gas, he ventured on via rocky and gullied roads, through the jungle, across clear, mountain-cooled springs – to a hole in the ground.
“Eh lad,” his Mancunian accent, not tarnished by 40 years of living in South Africa, beamed across the valley. “Is this it then?” Albert ventured closer, but as he bent down to investigate further he stepped back – spluttering and gasping for air as his lungs were filled with the pungency of CO2.
“Eh, that there be CO2 alright, no need to take a sample!” He had found what he came to seek – the source of the CO2. But he wasn’t finished just yet. “You see this here CO2, if you take that mountain-cool water over there and mix the two – well you have your perfect carbonated water.”
What more can a man want? Well at this stage, most of the others in his party wanted a bed after all the trekking.
The sun had set by the time the Cessna arrived in Dar es Salaam but, undeterred, his new quest was for that elusive Nile Perch. For this he had to venture further afield, via the spice island of Zanzibar, to Mombasa, on to Nairobi, over Kilimanjaro, and back to Dar es Salaam – before a willing host finally found a restaurant that served Nile Perch, overlooking the star-laden skies of the Indian Ocean. Albert had ventured where no gasman had been before, well, almost!

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