What was it like onboard Alexander L. Kielland?William Graham about the accident

Summer job at Kielland

In the summer of 1979, Jan Olav Haga had just finished high school and was looking for a job for the summer.
Written by Norwegian Petroleum Museum

His father, who worked at Haugesund Mekaniske Verksted (HMV) in Haugesund, suggested that Jan Olav inquire about a summer job in the North Sea. Work in the North Sea paid well, and a job on an oil platform sounded exciting. He asked and got a summer job as a fireguard on Edda, where HMV carried out welding and maintenance work. 

At that time, there was no requirement for safety training for offshore workers, but Jan Olav had to undergo a medical check-up prior to going out. The doctor seemed more concerned about checking for needle marks on his arm than conducting a thorough medical examination. 

At HMV’s personnel office, he was handed clothes and equipment in a garbage bag, along with tickets for the Westamaran ferry to Stavanger. From there, it was on to the Heliport at Forus. Before departing by helicopter to Edda, they had to put on survival suits. They were very warm, so they sat with the zippers down, ready to be pulled up if something unexpected happened. 

Edda was located southwest of the Ekofisk center, and the Alexander L. Kielland rig was anchored nearby. A bridge connected the two installations. Jan Olav’s workday took place on Edda, while he lived and ate on Kielland, where there was also access to a cinema and exercise equipment. 

Jan Olav was one of the youngest on the platform. He didn’t know the other two slightly older students who also had summer jobs, nor did he know the rest of the crew, who were closer to his father’s age. 

The job as fire watch consisted of being ready with a fire extinguisher and monitoring workers welding in a large hall. Jan Olav was unsure about the type of work they were actually doing, but he remembers that most of the workers were Scots with a difficult-to-understand English accents. Occasionally, they would ignite rags and throw them to give Jan Olav something to do. It was all just for fun! 

Jan Olav does not remember much about what Kielland looked like, but the accommodations were decent. What he remembers best is the food! 

“I had three meals a day, and it wasn’t a problem for a 19-year-old. The food was very good, and there was plenty of it. In addition, we could help ourselves to free soft drinks and candy.” 

Jan Olav made two trips to the North Sea in the summer of 1979 before joining the military, and later studied to become an auditor. Despite his short offshore career, he has one memory from the first trip: an address label that he kept. Before departure, the crew was given these labels to be tied around the garbage bags containing clothes and equipment destined for the Kielland platform. Perhaps Jan Olav realized even then that his time in the North Sea would be limited to these two trips? 

Less than a year later, the Kielland accident occurred. He remembers sitting in the living room with his father when the news of the accident came on TV. 

Less than a year after his trips to the North Sea, the Kielland accident occurred. Jan Olav still vividly remembers the evening when the news of the accident was shown on TV while he sat in the living room with his father. It was an unreal experience; they couldn’t believe what had happened. His father also had a job that occasionally took him out to the North Sea, and he still had some of his belongings on Kielland. He knew many of those who perished in the accident; they were his workmates. It was a heavy and sad time for everyone affected by the tragedy. 

Jan Olav has kept the address label from Kielland for over 40 years and is now donating it to the Norwegian Oil Museum, where it will be part of the memorial collection about the accident. 

Jan Olav Haga and his address tag (Photo: Else M. Tungland/Norwegian Petroleum Museum)



    close Close