Max Steineke: Geologist and Icon

Chief geologist from 1936 – 1946, Max Steineke arrived in Saudi Arabia after 13 years as a Socal (Standard Oil Company of California) geologist with experience in Alaska, Colombia and New Zealand. Steineke is described by author Wallace Stegner in his book Discovery!, as “Burly, big-jawed, hearty, enthusiastic, profane, indefatigable, careless of irrelevant detail and implacable in tracking down a line of inquiry, he made men like him, and won their confidence.” The early pioneers agreed, and Steineke was highly respected by both his American and Saudi colleagues. Despite their limited communication in broken Arabic and English, Steineke developed a close friendship with chief guide, Khamis ibn Rimthan. The two worked side by side for many years in the early exploration days.

Steineke is well known for his efforts at Dammam Well No. 7, which in 1938 produced oil in commercial quantities for the first time in Saudi Arabia. With no promise of success – and previous unsuccessful drilling attempts – the teams kept drilling at Steineke’s urging, which led to the discovery that ultimately transformed the Kingdom. It was no surprise that Steineke was awarded the prestigious Sidney Powers Memorial Medal in 1951, the highest honor for a petroleum geologist. Steineke’s perseverance and commitment to Aramco give him a very special place in both the company and world history.