Thirty one years ago today, the drill rig, Ocean Ranger, sank in a vicious storm off the coast of Newfoundland. All 84 crew members on board were lost. Many bodies were never recovered. It was February 15, 1982 and I remember it. I was just 16 years old at the time. The winter storm had closed schools for the day. I was happy, a snow day!
In the living room, the radio was tuned to VOCM 590 AM as the very long list of cancellations were being read throughout the morning. At the time my only care was that school was closed, so I was through listening to the radio. I moved to the kitchen table and began to concentrate on my hobby of the time.
My hobby back then was listening to a radio scanner and recording some of what I heard onto a cassette tape. On the scanner, that morning all was a buzz with city crews trying to keep the roads clear in St. John's, taxis trying to get around and the Light & Power dealing with various power outages in and around the city of St. John's.
One of the "stations" I could pick up on the radio scanner was mobile telephones and ship to shore calls. Many of these calls were only one sided, that's to say you could only pick up one side of the conversation. The mobile telephones were quite active so I decided to listen to them and I also turned on my tape recorder. I remember one particular lady having as conversation about the bad weather and especially the strength of the winds. Numerous times she mentioned that she hoped the boys were okay. Then she mentioned the boys "on the Rig". Very shortly I discovered the "rig" she was referring to was the Ocean Ranger.
At the time, this conversation was nothing special, it was early morning February 15, 1982, before the news had broke about the Ocean Ranger being in trouble. But you could hear the worry in her voice as she spoke with numerous people, about the awful weather and the "boys out on the rig." To this day I still have no idea if she was a relative of a crew member, or just another caring Newfoundlander. I would never know as what I was doing by listening to private conversations, and recording them, was considered "illegal". Although at the time there were many arguments for and against the use of radio scanners.
It was only a short time later that the news had broke on VOCM that the drill rig, Ocean Ranger was in trouble out on the Grand Banks, in a vicious winter storm. It was said that the storm, which was bad on land in St. John's, was twice as bad out at sea. Shortly the company which owned the Ocean Ranger, ODECO (Ocean Drilling and Exploration Company, Inc) announced that the rig had capsized and all on board had been lost at sea. Of the 84 men on board, 22 bodies were eventually recovered. And as they say, the rest is history.
It seems that everyone who was born during this time will remember the Ocean Ranger Disaster. Many people know of someone who has some connection with the Ocean Ranger. Later that day, I was told that my cousin was on board the Ocean Ranger; William Smith of St. John's. His body was never recovered.