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Travel stories

10 June 2023

When we think about travel, we truly realise how much the action of describing it inseparably precedes it, accompanies it and follows it at all times. Be it writings, photographs, videos or press articles, all the materials in our historical archive that accompany and describe travel are an expression of the deep awareness of how great its value is, for ourselves and for others.

Documentary sources

In the documentary archive we can find multiple traces of the exploits of oil industry pioneers travelling all over the world. Reports, notebooks, stories and travel diaries populate the files, offering a rich and detailed insight into many countries and different realities, observed from multiple points of view. It is a tale of exploration in search of hydrocarbons, of technical knowledge, of industrial, political and commercial connections, but also of discovering other cultures through which a true and lasting partnership can be established based on trust and respect.

Photos in the Zagros Mountains

In the mid-1950s, Enrico Mattei's Eni started to go abroad to carve out a space for itself in the international oil market. An important theme that has marked the history of our company is the journey being told in all its facets, through the testimonies of the historical archive with photos, videos, diaries of our researchers, engineers and workers. It is our pioneers who explore new lands often in complex situations, such as the Zagros Mountains in Iran, where in the late 1950s they went over 3,000 metres high to drill in extreme conditions, with the help of mules that carried their equipment.

Before each departure, our Eni colleagues were asked to take all kinds of pictures, not only geological ones but also of the local culture, of those faraway worlds, complex environments and different cultures. They are extraordinary shots that were shared after each trip with other colleagues who were soon to set off on the same adventure. But the new travellers would have had their route already mapped out, with travel notes giving them suggestions, warning them, informing them, accompanied by photographs that would have helped them deal with the task.

They are extraordinary shots that were shared after each trip with other colleagues.

Pioneers in Mekran

From the archive's valuable film photo collection relating to exploration and study trips made by Eni's engineers, geologists and technicians, there is a series comprising 88 16mm films shot by Agip Mineraria personnel between 1957 and 1961 in Iran. This is documentation collected during exploration, geological, geophysical, topographical and cartographic (with gravimetric and seismic surveys) and drilling campaigns in 3 specific areas of the country: the Persian Gulf, Zagros Mountains and Mekran.

As with the rest of the collection, these silent films contain images with exceptional geographical, anthropological, ethnographic value. Alongside the films, contemporary photo albums have been collected, as well as different types of papers (notes, plans, reports, letters, visas, articles, surveys, maps), dating from 1957 onwards. Of particular importance, especially for the campaigns in Mekran and the Zagros, was the use of aerial photography and aerial photo interpretation. Video interviews from the 2000s and subsequent articles have been added to the documents of the time.

In the sequences below:

  1. The dances of the Beluchi, inhabitants of the region of Belucistan, in South-West Asia, in the area encompassing the eastern part of Iran and the southern parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  2. Locals posing for the camera with their turbans, and an Italian Agip technician at work in the tents at the mining camp, also in Mekran, near the sea. 
  3. Footage of setting up the Husdan camp at Jask in the Gulf of Oman. The final shot shows an Italian technician playing with a gazelle.

These silent films contain images with exceptional geographical, anthropological, ethnographic value.

Reflections in the press

  1. The description of the explorers' travels is a constant in the company newsletter, from the Wild Cat to Ecos; maps, itineraries and chronicles of trips and stays in faraway and then unknown places are published; interviews, group photos and moments of everyday life also tell of the experience in the 1970s reports in Iran. 
  2. During a trip to Iran by the Cassiopea tanker, the magazine dedicated an article 'To the crews of the Agip fleet, whose silent work is too little known' in the form of a logbook. The theme actually covers the entire issue of the magazine: the Andromeda also appears on the cover, while as an in-depth feature we find a long essay by Giacinto Spagnoletti on the life, works and death of Emilio Salgari - which overspills the two originally planned pages and ends later in the columns. 
  3. The drive to explore and the growing prosperity produce more general articles on the actual meaning of travelling, the traveller's attitudes, and a column entitled 'Bella Italia' illustrates stages of possible trips, first in Italy and then in Europe. Some writings are edited by travel writers or journalists. 
  4. There is no shortage of recovery of the centuries-old tradition of Italian travel literature in the 'Books' column; and some beautiful travel chronicles observed the contrasts between all things ancient and modern from the new routes. There are also true narratives by writers and essayists, which are both descriptive and conceptual.

The description of the explorers' travels is a constant in the company newsletter, from the Wild Cat to Ecos.