Ocean Ranger, 25 Years On ...

Now and then, you feel gobsmacked when you realize how much time has passed since a "big historical thing" (to use the technical term) happened.

In this case, unfortunately, the anniversary I'm referring to is of a tragedy for all Canadians, especially Newfoundlanders & Labradorians.

25 years ago today, the offshore oil drilling unit Ocean Ranger capsized and sank during a fierce North Altantic storm, with the loss of all 84 souls aboard her at the time.

Here is a link to an excellent archival site at cbc.ca, which contains a footage of news broadcasts and additional information about the tragedy.

And here is a link to a tremendous post from Simon Lono, who gives a personal - and deeply moving - account of the loss. Yes, Simon is a "Liblogger", but in case you couldn't guess, this has nothing to do with partisanship.

I was less than 11 years old at the time the Ocean Ranger sank, but I can still remember the shock and horror that almost everyone in St. John's experienced as the extent of the tragedy became apparent. I can't begin to imagine how the families of the victims felt on that day - or how they feel today.

As Simon's post pointed out, offshore oil has been, in some ways, a blessing for Newfoundland & Labrador. Many people see it as one of the best - if not last - chances for my home province to escape economic "have not" status. Debates have and will continue as to how "the offshore" should be developped, and on what terms. But very few would disagree that it has had a significant effect on Newfoundland & Labrador. But as Simon's post also reminds us, the boon of offshore oil has come at a heavy cost.

The only good thing I can say about the Ocean Ranger aftermath is that it resulted in much-needed changes to a host of regulations and procedures, especially as they relate to the safety of the crews of offshore oil rigs. It shouldn't have taken a disaster for these improvements to be made - some of them just scream "basic common sense" when it comes to working on the ocean, even to a decided non-mariner like me. But sometimes we just don't learn until the sea, or some other calamity, forces us to face up to our mistakes (Titanic and lifeboats - another example).

God rest the souls of the men who died that day, 25 years ago, and comfort their families. And God help us remember.

More later.


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