Sea Gem 1965
The Sea Gem of made the first breakthrough in what was to be Britain's principle energy resource into the 21st century.
On the 27th December, only two days after the crew had been celebrating Christmas on the rig, the crew began making preparations to move the rig to a new position two miles away in order to drill another step-out well. Whilst the legs were being lowered two of the eight legs suddenly crumpled. The rig began to tilt sideways and men were thrown out of their bunks whilst others on the upper deck were thrown straight into the icy waters of the North Sea. No distress message had been made as the radio cabin was washed into the sea.
Mr Kevin Topham (the current curator of the Dukes Wood Oil Museum) was one of the drilling team, he said he was reading in his cabin when a shelf fell down and hit him on the head. He went up on deck and helped other men trying to release a life raft, but the waves prevented them. They managed to free another raft and he and thirteen others clambered on board. "It took about half-an-hour for the rig to go down and it seemed like a year" he said.
Luckily for the crew the British Cargo ship Baltrover was a mile or so away when the rig collapsed. The Chief Engineer Leonard Woodhouse had watched the whole disaster from the bridge and couldn't believe his eyes. At 14:09 the Baltrover made the first distress call on 2182khz it said:
"Oil Rig Sea Gem has just collapsed and sinking. Am sending a boat across to her. Require further assistance"
Some of the crew who hadn't taken to the liferaft or had been thrown into the sea, scrambled to the end of the platform which was floating highest out of the water. But they were taken under when the whole platform, after floating at a crazy angle for a while, suddenly turned right over without warning.
There had been no panic when the crew took to the liferafts but this was the North Sea in December and the sea was ice cold. A excellent swimmer had dived into the sea and been overcome by exposure. Most of the crew were rescued by the Baltrover or by helicopters that had been called out in the emergency. By the time these helicopters had arrived there was nothing to been seen of the rig except for one of the legs sticking above the water and a mass of wreckage.
However thirteen men were lost as a result of this disaster.
Picture added on 10 April 2015 at 11:09