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  1. #1
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    Unhappy Bantry Bay,25 years ago

    Most of you will be too young to remember one of the worst maritime disasters of recent times,which Occurred in the Whiddy Island Oil terminal,not far from Bere Island,on the 8th of January 1979.
    The 140,000 tonne oil tanker Betelgeuse,while unloading her cargo at the oil terminal,suffered a catostrophic explosion,and was destroyed,killing 51,including the crew of the French Owned vessel,as well as local workers,and the Bantry Pilot.
    The explosion broke the ships hull in two,and much of the wreckage was a landmark in the bay,albeit a sad reminder,for many years after.
    Today you can still see the Storage facility,which still operates,however the relic of the jetty which was destroyed in the explosion remains to this day,and is easily visible from land for anyone who has visited Bere Island.
    The explosion was heard up to 20 miles away. At the time our SAR facilities were almost non existant on the south west coast,but local boats soon realised that searching the burning black sea for survivors was impossible. I remember the fire burned for some time,damped down by the firefighting tugs stationed nearby,but the Black plume could be seen clearly as I looked west from my own house,though we were almost 70 miles away.
    An investigation revealed it was caused by a design flaw,which also caused the loss of its sister ship "Devonshire",and the absence of an inert gas system aboard the vessel.
    The Owners of the vessel,Gulf,made many promises,railroaded the inquiry proceedings with their corporate "spin" and abandoned Whiddy Island and Ireland,leaving a sad reminder of a tragic day,and little else.

    Whiddy island still serves as a storage facility,but loading and unloading is now done from a floating Buoy,rather than a fixed jetty.

    The Monument to the disaster in Bantry

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  3. #2
    6-40509-04014-7 yooklid's Avatar
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    My Dad was working in the old IIRS at the time (In fact he retires next July). He told me that the brought portions of the hull to Dublin for testing and that there was so much rust throughout the vessel that the iron oxide basically acted like thermite and increased the power of the explosion.

    As some of my dads tales can be a bit tall, I will leave it up to our resident Pyromaniac YJ to let me know the validity of that one.

    -Y
    Meh.

  4. #3
    Commander in Chief hptmurphy's Avatar
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    Eh.....Goldie beg to differ but the vessel that exploded at bantry was a tanler .....the vessel the 'derbyshire' was a bulk carrier. the Derbyshire was lost in the south china sea during a typhoon ....the cause is reckoned to be that she lost a hatch cover and the ingress of water broke her back.


    I think the comparison that you wish to make is with the Kowloon Bridge which was also a swan Hunter built bulk carrier . The said vessel ran aground on the Stags Rocks in 1987 and was broken up.

    The alledged design fault in these sister ships was the lack of longitudal stiffnerers........which gave the vessels a tendency to flex in heavy seas.... as a result if their cargo shifted or became overloaded the back of the ship would snap with fatal results......


    Its alright Goldie I know you were only testing me.

    Interestingly enough the remains of the hulk was towed out to sea to be sunk but due to a pocket of air trapped in the bow it refused to do so......

    Naval Service to the rescue and The L.E. Deirdre had to fire 40mm rounds into the foward section to sink it.


    More useless info.......the minesweeper L.E. Banba had a diver down.....the Former LT Cdr Dan O Neill and he ran into air supply problems at the jetty and was nearly drowned..

    I vividly remember the reports of the accident on the TV back then and was amazed to see the remains of the jetty on my first visit to the area when I was in the NS.
    Last edited by hptmurphy; 5th January 2019 at 23:57.
    Time for another break I think......

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  6. #4
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    Funny enough I also doubted that story myself murf,it was something mentioned in the local papers..though I do know that Derbyshire may have been an OBO,rather than a pure bulker. She was carrying Ore at the time she sank/broke up/dissapeared..
    Losing the hatch cover caused her loss,but did not explain why she Broke up so violently.
    Thank you for correcting me on the Ships name by the way..it explains why I could not find any details....

    http://www.shipstructure.org/derby.shtml

  7. #5
    Commander in Chief hptmurphy's Avatar
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    Ah ! Now i understand...you got the article from somewhere else.


    I thought it was unlike you to make such an error.

    Who published the original? Maybe he needs to know of this error?
    Time for another break I think......

  8. #6
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    TG4 had an interesting documentary(as they often do) about this disaster recently,and using archive footage gave an interesting tale of what happened.
    Betelgeuse was due to head to the breakers after delivering her cargo to Whiddy,having been diverted there after experiencing rough seas in the Bay of Biscay. This was at a time when the Suez Canal was still closed to larger traffic,and the VLCCs had to round the cape when transitting from the Arabian oilfields to europe or the US.
    As Betelgeuse entered bantry Bay,she met her sister ship,Casiopee,which was also heading for the breakers yard.What is known of what then happened for sure is that while she was being offloaded,the front and rearmost tanks were unloaded first,causing the bow and stern to become lighter and more Buoyant than the centre of the tanker. Physics being what it is,the heavier mid section broke away from the rest of the ship,in a massive explosion which demolished the accomodation section where most if not all of the crew were located. the centre section soon sank,leaving the bow sticking famously out of the water surrounded by an oil fuelled fire..The refinery workers who had been working on the jetty(which could only be accessed by water) were unable to escape the intense heat and all were killed,presumaby by fire,but many would also have drowned in an attempt to escape the jetty by jumping into the burning sea.
    The fire was so intense that when the alarm was raised,local boats were unable to get close,as the windows in their wheelhouses began to heat and crack. It is at this point however that there are many questions.
    The locals in Bantry give the explosion happening somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes BEFORE the Oil Company state it happened. The inference being drawn from this is that whoever should have been monitoring the unloading was not where they say they were at the time in question,and the time was altered..they were also not in a position to begin evacuating the refinery workers before the fire got out of control and perhaps there were a matter of minutes where an evacuation could have been successful? Could men have been in the water waiting for rescue,only to find themselves surrounded as time passed by burning oil? Lots of questions..few answers..

    It is an interesting story nonetheless and i would like to see someday someone like Daire Brunicardi,who has written so well on Naval and Nautical matters in the past,and who was involved in the Coordination of the rescue/search/Salvage of the ship,would write a final account of what happened on that day,which is fading fast from memory as one of the worst disasters to affect the west cork seafaring community.

  9. #7
    Commander in Chief hptmurphy's Avatar
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    modern tanker s are pumped full of inert gases to replace the cargo which leaves many highly volitile gases behind ... this was not the case with the betelguese and was actually one of the better points to arise from the disaster. there should have been fire fighting vessels on standby durin the unloading of any such vessel but this was not the case ..another lesson learned.

    the whole scenario on that level ahd never been envisaged ..but in fairness lessons have been learned...i think also that the whole situation does require and impartial publication given the magnitude of the situation.
    Time for another break I think......

  10. #8
    Harry
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    "one of the worst disasters to affect the west cork seafaring community"
    The worst disaster by far I'd say, not just to the seafaring community in west cork but to the Bantry region in general as it has never really recovered financially from the economic loss of the initial terminal. The new setup will never provide the same levels of income as the old setup did. The town has failed to develop in the same way as some other West Cork towns in the past 25 years and if the disaster had not happened I have no doubt Bantry would be quite a vibrant port and town. Nowadays they can't even secure funding for refurbishment of the existing and quite dilapidated pier while some of it's west cork neighbours get grants for planting flowers.

  11. #9
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    hptmurphy, excellent info. One small correction, the diver in question was Danny O'Neill, retired as Cdr. (Elec.). The oil in the water jammed his demand valve.

  12. #10
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    Welcome Gerry. Always good to have a few more aboard

  13. #11
    Commander in Chief hptmurphy's Avatar
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    I stand corrected....I met the man during one of Eithnes refits.

    Welcome aboard Gerry ..obviously you know your stuff ...keep it coming.
    Time for another break I think......

  14. #12
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    26 years now.

  15. #13
    Commander in Chief hptmurphy's Avatar
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    this is the crew rom the grainne from in or around the time ...I can put nanes to a ccouple of the faces
    Time for another break I think......

  16. #14
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    Black caps?

  17. #15
    Commander in Chief hptmurphy's Avatar
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    wimter time wornbetwen september and april only phased out in then early eighties...in favour of berets for working dress and wfite caps for service dress
    Time for another break I think......

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  19. #16
    Sergeant
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    Jeez Murph....how can you make anyone out in that pic?....Can barely make out some of the faces!

  20. #17
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    Tomorrow night on Tuesday 17 July 2007 8.30pm, a series of documentaries begins on RTE1. The first of these deals with the Whiddy disaster.

    The first programme is the series reveals the story behind the Whiddy inferno. On January 8th January 1979 an oil tanker, the Betelgeuse, exploded at Gulf Oil's Whiddy Terminal, Bantry Bay. The explosion was of such magnitude that it was heard as far away as Kenmare. The resulting inferno killed 50 people, and created a major environmental disaster.
    The explosion was heard much further away than kenmare, which is only over the hills. It was clearly heard in Skibbereen. We could see the smoke plume from my house in east cork, about 80 miles away.
    Last edited by Goldie fish; 16th July 2007 at 22:12.

  21. #18
    bosun
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldie fish View Post
    Tomorrow night on Tuesday 17 July 2007 8.30pm, a series of documentaries begins on RTE1. The first of these deals with the Whiddy disaster.



    The explosion was heard much further away than kenmare, which is only over the hills. It was clearly heard in Skibbereen. We could see the smoke plume from my house in east cork, about 80 miles away.
    I was on the grainne and we went there on the third day after it happened also there was a french minesweeper called the liseron lt/cdr costello was the captain hard and dirty times as the intake of the 40 horse power and gemini kept clogging up with crude oil any general questions about it just ask..

  22. #19
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    I understand Setanta, with Lt Cdr Brunicardi was also involved in the recovery operation. I remember seeing on the news the oil encrusted bodies being recovered from the sea.

  23. #20
    bosun
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldie fish View Post
    I understand Setanta, with Lt Cdr Brunicardi was also involved in the recovery operation. I remember seeing on the news the oil encrusted bodies being recovered from the sea.
    I dont think setanta was involved ourselves and the french crew carried two coffins as a mark of respect to the two countries that was involved.. deirdre relieved us after 3 weeks. and then it was us and fola on rotation for a long time .. worst thing you were at anchor all the time and used for all different ops

  24. #21
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    Man born the night his father died among Betelgeuse mourners

    By Eoin English
    A MAN who was born on the night his father died in Irelands worst maritime disaster will be among those attending a special commemorative event next month to mark the 30th anniversary of the tragedy.


    Liam Shanahan, who turns 30 on January 8 next, will spend the day in Bantry as people gather to remember his father and the others who were killed in the 1979 Whiddy Island disaster in Bantry bay.

    The commemorations will feature a Mass and wreath-laying ceremony.

    Dozens of French nationals, whose relatives died in the disaster, are also expected to travel to Bantry.



    A total of 50 people 42 French nationals, seven Irish nationals and one Briton died in the early hours of January 8, 1979, when the 11-year-old Betelgeuse oil tanker exploded as it off-loaded its oil at the offshore jetty at Whiddy Island.

    The force of the initial explosion blew men from the jetty into the sea.

    The Betelgeuse became engulfed in a ball of fire and a series of further explosions broke the vessel in half, igniting the oil cargo still on board.

    Temperatures reached an estimated 1,000C sending giant plumes of thick black smoke billowing hundreds of feet into the air.

    Firefighters couldnt get close to the burning ship and fought to prevent the other blazes spreading to oil storage areas elsewhere on the island.

    It was two weeks before clouds of toxic and inflammable gas cleared to allow the recovery of bodies to begin. Only 27 were found.

    Liams father, Liam Snr, from Ballydehob was among those who died.

    In a tragic twist of fate, Liam Snrs wife was giving birth in Bantry hospital just a few miles away as the disaster was unfolding.

    And one of the few original Gulf Oil employees, Joe Tobin, who still works at the terminal, will also attend the commemorative event.

    It will be his last working day as he is due to retire.

    A Betelgeuse memorial stands in the grounds of St Finbarrs Church graveyard, overlooking Bantry harbour.

  25. #22
    2/Lt
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    Naval Service divers were called at that time, to assist in the recovery of bodies from the Betelguese. One diver, I recall was working in total blackout when his reg became clogged with mud. He made a free ascent from depth to the surface safely, without a supply of air. That was D.O'N. Naval safety training paid off here.
    Last edited by Test Pilot; 15th December 2008 at 14:32.

  26. #23
    Closed Account Goldie fish's Avatar
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    The storage facility is still in use today. However ships now load and unload cargo from a floating buoy, as the jetty was destroyed.


    Tanker attached to the Buoy, with the old jetty at Whiddy on the edge of the frame.


    The Buoy is in front of the Ship. I had no control over the weather conditions.


    The demolished terminal, with Whiddy Island storage facility in the background.

  27. #24
    2/Lt
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldie fish View Post
    The storage facility is still in use today. However ships now load and unload cargo from a floating buoy, as the jetty was destroyed.

    .

    The floating buoy is a single point mooring and discharge buoy, known as a CALM buoy. ( Catenary Anchor Leg Mooring ). It can discharge oil from a tanker useing flexable hoses while the ship 'weather vanes' 360 deg around it.

    It is self contained and consists of the following:

    Telemetry and Berthing Aids; to provide the Master and
    Operators with information on process and ancillary equipment,
    together with berthing data



    Load Monitoring Systems; to provide a constant display of the
    tension in the hawser


    Quick-Release Mooring Hooks; to provide a means for quickrelease
    of a tanker in an emergency


    Breakaway Couplings; to provide the means to prevent over
    stretching of the floating hoses in the event of overload, thus
    avoiding any risk of pollution


    Electrical swivels; to enable power and instrument signals to be
    transferred between the fixed and rotating parts of the buoy


    Hydraulic power units and hydraulic swivels; to provide hydraulic
    power supplies for subsea applications i.e. PLEM control valve


    Solar and wind power systems; to power the navigation aids,
    telemetry and berthing aids


    Outboard product swivels; to limit the stress on the offloading
    hoses and thereby increase hose life


    Surge Relief Systems; to provide a means to contain any fluids
    that may be relieved due to pressure surges during loading/
    offloading operations


    Subsea wave, tide and current sensors; to monitor the long term
    tide height, significant wave height and wave period.

    Attached Files Attached Files

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  29. #25
    bosun
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    it would be a nice idea if the navy top brass would provide a bus to the cermony for naval personell serving/retired who were involved to attend this cermony. the bay is a beautiful place in good weather.

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