A Grim Anniversary: Remembering the 84 souls lost at sea in 1982, and how the Ocean Ranger remains one our most heartbreaking tragedies

Posted: February 15, 2024 10:47 am | Last Updated: February 15th, 2024 8:04 pm
By Ben Cleary


It’s been over four decades years since the cruel Atlantic swallowed the towering rig, claiming all 84 souls.

The facts that surround the sinking of the Ocean Ranger are seared into the collective consciousness of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. A fierce North Atlantic storm battered the rig for hours before a rogue wave smashed through a port hole in one of the rig’s legs, soaking the ballast control system. From that point on the rig was doomed. A list developed and technicians who thought they were fixing the problem, actually made it worse.

The radio communications between the rig and Mobil Oil’s St. John’s base were ominous. Mobil’s rig superintendent listened as a voice far out to sea reported at 1 a.m. that the rig was listing badly. It was a grim message to receive from an oil rig, hung off and riding it out at the epicenter of a weather bomb. Winds were up to 90 knots and waves almost five storeys high. At over 120 metres long and standing 100 metres tall, the Ranger was the largest rig of its kind when it was launched in 1976. Some thought it was unsinkable but history tells a different story. The Ranger sinking would become the nation’s greatest marine disaster.

Despite the many improvements to offshore safety, most of which were a result of what happened aboard the Ranger, the loves ones of offshore workers still fret, especially during a storm. Of the 84 men on the Ranger in February of ’82, 56 of them were Newfoundlanders.

On that fateful night, Mobil’s emergency response team was called in and the coast guard was notified. It was shortly after, that a second radio message arrived — a message that would send chills through Mobil’s Atlantic Place radio operations centre. “There will be no further radio communications from the Ocean Ranger. We are going to lifeboat stations,” it said. 

It was the last message from the doomed rig.

The inquiry and recommendations that followed that disaster would ensure those men did not die in vain.

The name itself, The Ocean Ranger , still evokes so much pain for so many. There’s a full church of broken hearts each February in St. John’s to remember those lost that day, men who will never be forgotten.

NTV’s Ben Cleary will have a full report in the NTV Evening Newshour.

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