1st February 1978

Oil rig stranded at Grandes Rocques

Norwegian-owned Orion was the world’s first jack-up exploratory oil-drilling platform (rig). It had been designed for use in the unforgiving North Sea all year round. By early 1978, having reached the end of its useful life off Rotterdam, the 19,000-ton, £10m structure was being welded to a barge that would transport it to Brazil.

This coincided with a fierce storm, which broke lines securing the rig. It drove the rig into Grandes Rocques, 180m from shore, still with more than 30 crew members aboard.

Two of the crew were rescued by lifeboat the following morning, but the continuing storm meant the lifeboat had to retreat. A further 24 had to be rescued by Royal Navy Sea King helicopters, which had been dispatched from Cornwall. This left seven crew aboard the rig, which by now was firmly wedged on the rocks.

The last workers were winched from the platform on 3 February in a particularly daring operation. Because the rig had been lowered, it was sitting well down within the legs, which normally would have been supporting it on the sea bed.

Daring rescue

The helicopters were forced to fly down between its legs, which were now sticking up, into the air. From that position, they had to lower a cable to pick up the stranded crew – all the while being careful not to be struck by the legs. This was no mean feat with the rough seas throwing them about.

A Dutch salvage company was appointed to refloat the rig so it could continue on its journey to Brazil. It managed to do it on 1 March, a month after the rig had first broken free of its moorings. They had managed to lift it up by pumping compressed gas into the platform’s hull, making it lighter on the water. The salvage operation attracted considerable interest from locals and the media alike.


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Other events that occured in February

Mail ship wrecked on Black Rock 1st
Oil rig stranded at Grandes Rocques
Birth of Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann 2nd
Death of Sir Charles Hayward 3rd
St Martin’s parish church consecrated 4th
Guernsey suffers its worst storm in 35 years 5th
Guernsey watchmaker helps Stone of Scone manhunt 6th
Guernsey Language Commission formed 7th
Queen Mary executed while wearing Guernsey stockings 8th
Guernsey gets its first postbox
Guernsey Society celebrates its 70th anniversary 9th
Guernsey’s last execution didn’t go according to plan 10th
The last issue of GUNS was distributed 11th
Alderney gets its first full-time radio station 12th
Guernsey’s last duel 13th
Specsavers’ Mary Perkins was born 14th
Blue Islands takes to the skies
Guernsey gets its own flag 15th
Birth of concrete poet Dom Sylvester Houedard 16th
HMS Guernsey launched in Aberdeen 17th
Guernsey’s first Methodist minister arrives 18th
Aurigny Air Services founded 19th
Guernsey Railway Company runs its first services 20th
The Channel Islands were cut off from the outside world 21st
St Sampson was ordained a bishop 22nd
Death of Thomas Fiott de Havilland 23rd
Murder inquiry ends with suicide 24th
Death of occupation resister Marie Ozanne 25th
Guernsey’s first banker dies 26th
Release of Reverend Harry Samuel 27th
Plans for St Sampson power station approved 28th
Second World War bomb detonated 29th