Born in Nanton, Alberta, Vern “Dry Hole” Hunter was a man known for his many
dismal failures and one significant discovery. Hunter began his career with
Royalite Oil as a junior clerk, and then, after a successful campaign, he
transferred to the field as a roughneck in 1927. During the depression of the
1930s he was laid off and could only make a living raising chickens –he had
300 leghorns– and doing odd jobs. By 1934, Royalite rehired Hunter, and soon
he was working on the important ARCA Development project.
By the 1940s, Hunter moved up in the Royalite Oil Company, now Imperial Oil,
by becoming a toolpush. A toolpush is a drilling rig manager, and in Hunter’s
case is responsible for oil production, or lack there of. “Dry Hole” Hunter
earned his nickname because he was a dismal failure at finding oil. By 1946,
he had drilled 134 times, and each time a dry hole.
In November of 1946, Imperial Oil was losing hope of discovering petroleum in
Alberta. Financially, the company was on the brink of leaving the area.
Hunter changed the fortunes of the company by discovering oil at Leduc #1.
Although not a big well, Leduc #1 proved there was oil in central Alberta.
Revitalizing the oil industry in Alberta today, the discovery of Leduc #1
changed the fortunes of the province. Today, the petroleum community
recognizes Hunter and his discovery, but many still remember him fondly as
the miserable failure “Dry Hole.”
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