Pam Pardy-Ghent: Sea of Heartbreak

“We are the OCEDO Ocean Ranger KRTB loc 46.43.33 N 48.50.13W and are experiencing a severe list of about 10-15 degrees and are in the middle of a severe storm at the time 12 degrees and progressing. Request asst ASAP. We are an offshore drilling platform.” 

— From the distress telex transmitted from the Ocean Ranger 1:09 a.m. Feb. 15, 1982.


Powerful, particularly in hindsight. The final message received from the Ocean Ranger was 21 minutes later when the radio operator aboard advised those listening that crew were heading to lifeboat stations. 

Some made it. Two empty life boats and several life rafts were later found, floating alongside life jackets and broken bits of foam. 

A nearby ship, The Seaforth Highlander, had nearly rescued men seen on one of the lifeboats, though the raging sea later capsized the smaller vessel. It, or perhaps another lifeboat, was spotted by the supply ship Nordertor and they could see bodies inside. In the midst of the storm, that lifeboat was swept away and was never found. Ships in the area did manage to pick up 22 bodies. All of those recovered had died of drowning and hypothermia. Heartbreaking. 

Tragedies at Sea

Few of us who call this province home have escaped being somehow connected to a loss at sea. From sealing to sailing; we know loss. While my family’s been lucky, many around us were not as blessed. Death. Loss. Questions. 

As the daughter and granddaughter of fishermen, tragedies at sea hit home, and they hit hard. It’s always a, but for the grace of God, situation whenever you hear of a death at sea. While every loss is horrific, some strike a resounding chord. 

On March 12, 2009, Keith Escott died aboard Cougar 491. He was 39 years old. It was a tragic loss for the family, but not the first time they had faced such heartache. Keith’s brother, Derrick Escott, a logging engineer with Analysts of Canada Ltd., died when the Ocean Ranger sank 27 years before. 

Unlike some of those who perished that night, there was perhaps a small blessing as Derrick’s body was recovered two days later. 

Remiss to Forget

Brothers Robert and Stephen Windsor both died on the Ocean Ranger. According to those who know the family, the night their mother found out about the double loss there was yet another son who was offshore working on yet another rig in the height of that same storm. I can’t even imagine the terror.  

84 men died on the Ocean Ranger that night. 56 of them were Newfoundlanders. Every one of those men’s lives left a mark on someone in this province. At a meeting just yesterday someone had a tale to tell about someone they had known who was lost on the Ranger which led to; I remember where I was when, talk. 

Even those who weren’t born in ‘82 recalled when they first heard the story. 

The loss of the Ocean Ranger was one of those moments anyone of a certain age will always remember. It’s also one, no matter the age, we’d be remiss to forget. 

Pam Pardy Ghent, The Herald’s Managing Editor, can be reached by emailing [email protected]

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