Oil Tanker – Zoroaster

Dear all,

The following was given to me to read as it would be of great interest to me – and since I think it should be of some interest to all Zoroastrians, I send it to you with many thanks to the author for having taken the trouble to first study and then transcribe accurately somethings about us! I commend him for it!


This is taken from –


Investment Advisory

November 2011 and though the title is America’s Oil Boom, the first few paragraphs are quite fascinating – at least to me! So, ENJOY the read and feel good!

Courtesy Shirin J Mistry



Zoroastrianism is an ancient religion.


Perhaps a thousand years before Christianity began to spread across Europe … and many believe even before Moses…. the Persian Prophet, Zoroaster taught his followers a revolutionary idea: Monotheism.


Zoroaster taught there was only one universal and transcendent God, who created the Universe and everything in it. Zoroaster called his God “Ahura Mazda.”


Life, according to Zoroaster’s teachings, was a battle between truth (Asha) and falsehood (Druj). When truth finally overcame falsehood, time would end and everyone, even the dead, would be reborn and reunited with Ahura Mazda.


Thus, the purpose of life was to seek truth and the order of the universe and defend it against falsehood and chaos.


Fire was important in the religion, as light was a symbol of truth. Some of Zoroaster’s followers settled around Baku (in modern day Azerbaijan, just north Iran) on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Here oil seeped from the surface of the earth, providing a ready fuel and natural gas could be vented directly into their temples.


As the great explorer Marco Polo recorded in the 13th century …


Near the Georgian border there is a spring from which gushes a stream of oil, in such abundance that a hundred ships may load there at once. This oil is not good to eat; but it is good for burning and as a salve for men and camels affected with itch or scab. Men come from a long distance to fetch this oil, and in all the neighbourhood no other oil is burnt but this …


Robert Nobel surely knew about Zoroastrianism and its flaming temples before he arrived in Baku in 1876. As a wealthy, highly educated Russian it’s likely he read The Travels of Marco Polo. But whether or not he went to Baku specifically for oil, remains a matter of historical debate.


His younger brother, Ludvig, had been placed in charge of the remnants of his father’s business – an arms and heavy equipment manufacturer that was best known for its mining operations. And it was his younger brother who banished him from the relative luxury of St Petersburg to the wilds of Azerbaijan – reportedly to find high quality walnut forests, not oil.


The Nobels had long been one of Russia’s most prosperous arms merchants … until their fortunes declined in the 1860s. First, Russia’s Czar stopped buying the firm’s legendary mines. Then the Czar cut back on steam engines, too. By the end of the decade, creditors had seized the firm and had sent Robert’s father back home to Sweden in shame.


There, Ludvig was trying to revive his father’s company by manufacturing rifle stocks. And he needed more timber. This is the reason, according to most historical accounts, he ordered Robert to travel to Azerbaijan.


But Robert Nobel didn’t find any trees.


In fact, there’s almost no natural vegetation whatsoever in Baku. It’s extremely dry and windswept. The timber he found wasn’t alive any more. It had been lumbered for oil derricks. Hundreds of them. Robert Nobel claimed he “stumbled” onto perhaps the greatest oil boom in history – by accident … while shopping for timber. I don’t believe the story. Not for a moment. But that’s what the gullible historians have recorded.


What we know for certain is wildcat wells dotted the landscape of Baku. The story goes that Robert Nobel decided on the spot that derricks were better than living trees. Whether he was really acting on orders from his brothers or not, he certainly began buying leases on the spot. Over the next few years, the Nobel brothers invested heavily in Baku.


Then, in 1872, the oil boom took off when the Russian crown auctioned off the rights to hundreds of leases. Refineries built dozens of factories to transform the heavy crude into easier burning kerosene. Demand for which was insatiable.


By 1880, the Nobels were the leading oil producers in Baku. And by 1900, just 20 years later, Baku was producing half of all the oil in the world.


When big new resources like this are discovered, the resulting increases to production are often unimaginable.


As production greatly increased, the difficulties of storing and transporting Baku’s oil became paramount. At first, refineries simply put the kerosene in wooden barrels and shipped it on barges across the Caspian and up the Volga River to markets in Russia. But this wasn’t as easy as it might seem…


First of all the wooden barrels were expensive – as I mentioned, there wasn’t any timber in Baku. Additionally, they leaked. That made the process difficult, dangerous and inefficient. Before production could be economically increased further, the challenges of distribution had to be tackled.


Ludvig Nobel became the “King of Baku” primarily because he figured out how to distribute oil – not because he discovered it. His solution? Pump it directly into the hull of a ship that was specially designed to navigate the Volga.


The first oil “tanker” ship the Nobels built was called Zoroaster. Launched in 1878, it took oil from Baku, across the Caspian and up the Volga, where it could be distributed across Russia. A fleet of such ships made Baku the world’s busiest port.


Etc, etc.



BTW, the third brother is indeed called Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and awarder of THE Nobel prizes.



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