Richard Kerr: Geologist, Engineer and Photographer

After working with Shell Oil in Mexico and Canada, Richard Kerr was approached with an opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia in 1933. Because of his expertise in geology, Kerr was asked to provide aerial geological reconnaissance for Standard Oil of California (Socal).

Kerr and colleague Charles Rocheville ordered a Fairchild 71 airplane and began their aerial journey. There were no roads in Saudi Arabia at that time, nor any maps or communications tools to help them find their way. Kerr and Rocheville relied on markers left by other explorers who dug trenches in the sand, filled them with gas and set them on fire to leave blackened messages and words to other travelers. Kerr studied, sketched and photographed the Arabian terrain, and played a great part in the development of the country’s maps. Today, many of Kerr’s photographs remain in Aramco’s historical archives.

After his first airborne mission, Kerr returned to Saudi Arabia for permanent employment with the company from 1937 – 1950. Described by colleagues as ‘insatiably curious’, another important accomplishment Kerr made is the design of a low-pressure sand tire for desert driving. He received recognition by the U.S. Secretary of Defense for this contribution which enabled longer distance driving in desert areas and made greater exploration efforts possible in Saudi Arabia. Kerr’s later years with Aramco were spent in the New York offi ce where he hosted many associates from Aramco and Saudi Arabia. His lasting marks as an Aramco “pioneer” were the innovative contributions borne from his spirit and dedication to the country and company.