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The Alexander Kielland Disaster

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In driving rain and mist, early in the evening of 27 March 1980 more than 200 men were off duty in the accommodation on Alexander L. Kielland. The wind was gusting to 40 knots with waves up to 12 m high. The rig had just been winched away from the Edda production platform.

Minutes before 18:30, those on board felt a 'sharp crack' followed by 'some kind of trembling'. Suddenly the rig heeled over 30° and then stabilised. Five of the six anchor cables had broken, the one remaining cable preventing the rig from capsizing. The list continued to increase and at 18:53, the remaining anchor cable snapped and the rig capsized.
Alexander Kielland
Alexander Kielland
Alexander Kielland
130 men were in the mess hall and the cinema. The rig had seven 50-man lifeboats and twenty 20-man rafts. Four lifeboats were launched, but only one managed to release from the lowering cables. A fifth lifeboat came adrift and surfaced upside down; its occupants righted it and gathered 19 men from the water. Two of Kielland's rafts were detached and three men were rescued from them. Two 12-man rafts were thrown from Edda and rescued 13 survivors. Seven men were taken from the sea by supply boats and seven swam to Edda.

No one was rescued by the standby vessel, which took an hour to reach the scene. Of the 212 people aboard 123 were killed, including five souls from Cleator Moor:
  • Michael Fleming
  • John McGrady
  • Brian Graham
  • Colin Lamb
  • Keith Hunter
The men from Cleator Moor are remembered in a memorial which is located on the Market Square.

Alexander Kielland Memorial, Cleator Moor
Alexander Kielland Memorial
The Alexander L Kielland was a semi-submersible accommodation rig, housing workers on the Ekofisk oil field. The rig was owned by Stavanger Drilling and on charter to Phillips Petroleum.

One of the rig’s five legs had a crack in it that no one had detected. When a massive wave hit the rig, the leg ruptured. Most of the rig’s anchor cables snapped. When the final cable snapped as well, the rig ultimately capsized.

Some had managed to get into lifeboats, but most of the boats were thrown against the crippled, overturning platform and crushed. Others on board dove straight into the icy waters, many without having time to take on survival suits or lifejackets. Still others were trapped and perished on board the rig.

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Little Ireland | Cleator Moor: The Alexander Kielland Disaster
The Alexander Kielland Disaster
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Little Ireland | Cleator Moor
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