Tuesday, February 14, 2017

35 years after the Ocean Ranger

Thirty five years ago tomorrow, the 84 crew aboard the drilling rig Ocean Ranger were killed about 250km east of St. John's, NL. The loss of the Ocean Ranger started with storm damage caused by a severe hurricane. The sea was running at 55 to 65 feet.

As the rig flooded and eventually sank, most of the crew evacuated (either in a life boat or by jumping into the sea—the exact reason there were men loose in the sea is unclear) and then perished. A Royal Commission found:
that the crew were not trained, the safety equipment was inadequate, there were no safety protocols for the supply ship, and that the rig itself had a number of flaws. The Royal Commission concluded that Ocean Ranger had design and construction flaws, particularly in the ballast control room, and that the crew lacked proper safety training, survival suits and equipment. The Royal Commission also concluded that inspection and regulation by United States and Canadian government agencies was ineffective.
Susan Dodd has written a wonderful book about how the Ocean Ranger disaster was repackaged by and to serve corporate interests. Perhaps more accessible is Ron Hynes' touching tribute to the families left behind by these occupational fatalities.

What colour is a heartache from a love lost at sea?
What shade of memory never fades but lingers to eternity?
And how dark is the light of day that sleepless eyes of mine survey?
Is that you, Atlantic Blue? My heart is as cold as you.

How is one heart chosen to never lie at peace?
How many moments remain? Is there not one sweet release?
And who’s the stranger at my door, to haunt my dreams forever more?
Is that you, Atlantic Blue? My heart is as cold as you.

I lie awake in the morning, as waves wash on the sand,
I hold my hurt at bay, I hold the lives of his children in my hands.
And whose plea will receive no answer? Whose cry is lost upon the wind?
Who’s the voice so familiar, whispers my name as the night comes in?

And whose wish never fails to find my vacant heart on Valentine’s?
Is that you Atlantic Blue? My heart is as cold,
My heart is as cold, my heart is as cold as you.

-- Bob Barnetson

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