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Ocean Ranger Disaster's 35th Anniversary

 

 Honourable senators, I rise today to commemorate the sinking of the Ocean Ranger, 35 years ago today off the coast of Newfoundland, and to remember the 84 men who perished that terrible night.

In the second half of the 20th century, when it was clear that the fishery could no longer be Newfoundland and Labrador's economic base, the province's attention turned to oil. The search for oil reserves off Canada's East Coast began in the 1960s and was well in progress by the 1970s. In 1979, oil was found in the Hibernia field.

In 1982, the Ocean Ranger was described as the world's largest semi-submersible oil rig. It was approved for unrestricted ocean operations and designed to withstand extremely harsh conditions at sea.

On February 14, 1982, the Ocean Ranger was drilling in the Hibernia oil field when at 8 a.m. the rig received a weather report stating that a strong winter storm was forecast to pass over its location later that day and into the night. The Ocean Ranger continued to drill until around 4:30 p.m., when it disconnected its drill pipe and retracted it for safety. By 7 p.m. the storm was well under way. There was no indication of trouble at 11:30 p.m. when the Ocean Ranger still transmitted its regular weather report.

At 52 minutes past midnight on February 15, a mayday call was sent from the Ocean Ranger. Helicopters were alerted and standby vessels were dispatched to provide assistance.

At 1:30 a.m. the Ocean Ranger transmitted its last message: "There will be no further radio communications from the Ocean Ranger. We are going to lifeboats."

Shortly thereafter, the crew abandoned the platform. The platform remained afloat for another 90 minutes, sinking just after 3 a.m. All of the Ocean Ranger sank beneath the North Atlantic. Her entire crew of 84 men perished.

Over the next week, only 22 bodies were recovered from the North Atlantic. Autopsies indicated that those men had died as a result of drowning while in a hypothermic state.

All Newfoundlanders and Labradorians struggled to cope with the loss. In every community in the province people gathered to find comfort. Thousands of Newfoundlanders from all walks of life, at home and abroad, continue to be deeply affected by this tragedy.

Honourable senators, Newfoundland and Labrador is no stranger to the tragedies of the North Atlantic. Please join me in remembering the sinking of the Ocean Ranger and the 84 men who lost their lives 35 years ago today.