Friday, 26 March 2010


30 years ago, one of the world’s worst oil industry accidents took place off the Norwegian coast, the worst industrial accident in Norwegian history. I cannot write about anything else today.

The accommodation platform Alexander Kielland, capsized. 123 people lost their lives. A simple ‘Mayday’ radio message lasting only a few seconds, and followed by complete silence, was all that was heard from the platform on the night of 27th March 1980. The Kielland had been on the Edda field near Ekofisk. At 18.53 the nearby Edda platform logged that the Kielland was upside down. It was a nightmare that no-one at the time could have believed was possible.

The platform was situated 235 miles east of Dundee, with a crew consisting of mainly Norwegian people, with some Britons and Americans on board too. Norwegian and RAF helicopters were sent to the area but with poor weather conditions the rescue attempt was extremely difficult. 89 people were rescued.

The subsequent commission of inquiry discovered that the accident had been caused by metal fatigue in a weld on one of the braces which tied the five column supports together.

The accident left a lasting mark on Norway, and in particular within this area. Amongst the oil community, it is often thought of and remembered, and has been a contributing factor in the safety culture of the industry ever since. As an oil wife, and one who has met some of those connected to Scotland’s worst oil accident, Piper Alpha in 1988, I know that such events are in our minds more often than we might admit.

The ‘Broken Chain’ monument was built to commemorate the Alexander Kielland incident, and in particular in memory of those who died. It was unveiled by Crown Prince Harald in 1986. It overlooks the sea at Smiodden near Stavanger, and the monument, together with the story of that dark night, does not fail to move anyone who visits it.

1 comment:

  1. A respectful and poignant reminder of a needless tragedy