Sea Gem

Rig:

Sea Gem self-elevating barge

Date:

27 December 1965

Location:

West Sole Field, Block 48, UK Continental Shelf

Operator:

BP

Introduction

The Sea Gem was a converted barge with ten support legs fitted and measured 247 feet in length by 90 feet wide. It was one the first rigs to work in the UK North Sea and commenced drilling in June 1965. Prior to this date, only three other wells had been drilled on the UK Continental Shelf, all of which had been dry holes.

Rig Collapse

In the autumn of 1965, the crew of the Sea Gem were drilling well 48/06- 1, which discovered gas in the Rotliegend Group sandstones. The well was completed on 09 December 1965 with tests indicating substantial gas reserves. At around 1345 hours on 27 December 1965, the crew were preparing to move the rig to a new location and commenced jacking down the main deck. A short time later, the passing freighter Baltrover witnessed the main deck lurch then fall towards port. The boat radioed for assistance at 1409 hours before coming to the aid of the Sea Gem's crew. Two of the rig's ten legs had apparently failed, causing the rig to fall sideways. Survivors stated that after about thirty minutes, the rig subsequently capsized and sank with one leg remaining above the sea.

Some of the crew were able to launch a liferaft, which 14 of the crew managed to board. The rest of the crew were thrown or jumped into the freezing winter sea. Fortunately, the Baltrover was on scene quickly to pick up survivors. Other men were rescued by passing boats with an RAF and a civilian helicopter assisting. Of the 32 men on board, 19 were rescued and 13 men died.

Sources:

North Sea Field Atlas: West Sole Field
Dukes Wood Museum
BBC News
BOPCRIS
The Times (UK): 28 Dec 1965 'Night search by flare light'
The Times (UK): 28 Dec 1965 'Survivors describe disaster'

Photos
1. Dukes Wood Museum
2. Sixties City