A pair of North Sea riggers have taken time from life offshore for a James Bond superspy adventure.
Father-son team James and Sam O’Neil make up one of the pairs in the new Amazon Prime show ‘007: Road To A Million’.
Their time on the show took them from Torridon in Scotland to the shadow of Mt Vesuvius in Naples and even climbing on top of a moving train in Chile’s Atacama Desert.
It’s a far cry from the North Sea for rigger James, who has spent 15 years in the sector, working on projects including TAQA’s Brae Bravo removal off Aberdeen.
In the game, pairs are made to hunt for questions laid out by Brian Cox’s villain “the Controller”, which saw James and Sam end up traversing the Chilean desert.
It was there that Sam, having heard the stories of James’ travels through his life, said he was inspired to follow his dad’s path in the oil and gas sector in Aberdeen, and has since become a rigger on a dive support vessel for Boskalis.
“One of the things I say in the show, actually, when Sam’s just dug up that big hole (in the Atacama), I say ‘you’re gonna have to come and work offshore with me sometime son’. And he was like ‘yeah, I’ll give it a bash’”, said James.
Sam added: “I went on the show and did the whole adventure before I ever got a job offshore. I think it was just chatting with my dad while I was out doing all of the crazy stuff, the cool stories about the people he’s met, the places he’s seen and the things he’s done. It kind of motivated me to get my tickets and try and get a start.
“Some of my favourite moments…to be honest it was just spending a lot of time with my dad. I feel like we were making up for a lot of lost time with him being away.
“We were sitting next to a fire in the desert and we were exhausted, hadn’t eaten in two days. We were just having some chat and then we had the best display of shooting stars I’ve ever seen, every two minutes, purple skies and everything, it was really next-level awesome.
“And sitting next to the fire with my dad it’s just something you don’t get to do every day.”
‘They didn’t tell us it was Bond’
The pair regularly watch adventure shows at Xmas time, which led to James applying for the show.
“They didn’t tell us it was James Bond until well into your audition stage. In fact, I think we were only told that at the point at which we signed the contract.
“We just thought it was some kind of new adventure show that was out – so when we found that out it was Bond, that just took it to the next level, overwhelmed with excitement.
“I went back and watched every single James Bond film again just so I could brush up.”
They fell at the £100,000 question in Chile, having banked £50,000 through their journey.
The adventure won’t stop with Bond though, as James and 21-year-old Sam have plans to go to Central Asia, where James spent time when he was little older than his son is now, as part of his 50th birthday celebrations
“I lived in Tajikistan and did a lot of overland travel,” said James.
“Then when we were in Chile, Sam’s driving this Land Rover through the desert and he’s like ‘this place looks like the moon’. It just totally reminded me of the Pamira Mountains. And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been in places like this before, son, you know, and I’d love to take you with me’.”
They’ll also be spending their winnings on a family holiday in the Maldives.
North Sea to James Bond: ‘I love working offshore’
The pair both live in Belfast but regularly travel to Aberdeen, where they both trained, for their work in the North Sea, and are considering buying a flat in the Granite City to accommodate their frequent visits.
And winning big won’t stop their work offshore.
James, who has spent most of his career in the North Sea and is originally from Dundee, said: “No I love it – I absolutely love working offshore.
“I love jumping on a plane, jumping on a chopper and working on the back deck. Just surrounded by the ocean. It gives me some alone time. Gives me some alone time, gives me time to reflect, gives me time to get fit. I hit the gym every day when I’m offshore, and whenever I’m on the beach I just get lazy and fat.”
Sam, who recently got his start with Boskalis, added: “When I began I thought it would just be a couple of trips, but I am really enjoying it, I love the lifestyle, the amount of time you get off back at home, it’s easy to get fit. It’s a strong bond with the people you work with, I really felt quite welcomed by the people around me.”