July 17

Rowan Gorilla I Oil Rig Lifeboat Rescue | A Survivor’s Story



The amazing true story of Tim Matherson who was safely rescued from the Gorilla I disaster because of a Survival Systems International Totally Enclosed Motor Propelled Survival Craft (TEMPSC). To date, SSI products have resulted in the safe rescue of over 2,200 people in over 60 incidents at sea.

The Rowan Gorilla I jack-up oil rig was built by the Marathon LeTourneau yard at Vicksburg, MI and completed in 1983. From 1983, the Rowan Gorilla I spent the first 5 years of its life located off the east coast of Canada. Low levels of drilling activity and high maintenance costs led to the initial decision to move the rig from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Trinidad, West Indies. Lack of a contract led to the subsequent decision to move the rig in winter across the North Atlantic to North Sea area. The rig departed Halifax on 08 Dec 1988, towed by the M/V Smit London.

Rig Capsize and Sinking

On the morning of the 13 December, a storm to the south-west of the rig's position brought winds of 60 knots and waves over 40 feet. Over the following two days, the rig was battered by high seas resulting in some significant damage. Wind and wave action caused the legs of the rig to oscillate and transmit stresses to the supporting structures on the hull. This caused hull fractures to propogate and flood storage tanks in the rig's stern. The lowering of the rig's stern allowed the high seas to break over the deck, causing containers and other deck cargo to break loose and batter top-side hatches, creating more points of flooding. On top of this, the tow line, having suffered two days of abuse, broke and the Smit London could only stand by as the crew of the rig attempted to control the flooding situation.

By 1000 on the morning of the 15th December, the captain of the Smit London noted that the rig was considerably heavier by the stern and, noting similarities with the sinking of the Dan Prince jack-up, warned the rig superintendent that the rig was in imminent danger of sinking. Around noon, a series of waves from 50 to 60 foot high hit the rig, dislodging the remaining loose cargo and causing the stern to hang under the seas. After consideration, the rig superintendent then ordered the crew to abandon the rig via the starboard lifeboat.

This video is the story of one of the survivor's Tim Matherson, who used a Survival System's International TEMPSC to safely evacuate and be rescued to return to his family.

For more information on the SSI Life Boats and the full range of Life Saving Apparatus get in touch with Survival Systems International today


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