Kielland SeminarLosing a father

The Red Survival Suit

The museum was founded a just before the Alexander L. Kielland accident. As a result, som of our earliest items stem from the accident. In this article we will be taking a closer look at one of them.
Written by Norwegian Petroleum Museum
- Red bag for storing survival suits.

One of the items in our collection is a box of red survival suits, with “Stavanger Drilling” printed on the back. Stavanger Drilling was the name of the company that owned the Alexander L. Kielland rig. At first it was believed that the suits were in use during the accident, but the tag stating 1981 prove that the suits were used after the accident.

One of the suits belonged to Oskar Johan Olsen, who was one of the 123 survivors of the accident. The suit, along with its nametag, tells us that he returned to work in the North Sea shortly after the accident.

Oskar was a derrickhand[REMOVE]Fotnote: Person working om the deck or derrick of a drilling rig. Duties vary greatly depending on the rig in question. (, n.d.) on board the Kielland and was working on preparing the rig for drilling. He was one of the many who ended up in the cold North Sea following the capsizing of the Kielland. He managed to climb atop a raft, but was left freezing after had lost his pants. He was left with only with his jacket and underwear.

Oddbjørn Lerbrekk, another worker fighting for his life in the cold North Sea, recounts his experience:

“On board there was a man who only had his underwear on. It was Oskar J. Olsen from Åkra. I got on board the raft and we found some trash bags that we put on in an attempt to keep warm. The blue dye from the inside of the bags was stuck to my skin several weeks after. A raft from Edda was came floating and collided with ours. It had three persons on board. That made five of us. Then it was dark.”

Oskar does not know how long they had been on the raft when someone shone a spotlight on them. A supply ship had spotted them. They threw a rope ladder to the raft. Oskar climbed up with a sudden burst of energy, but promptly collapsed as soon as he had gotten to the deck of the ship.

“They put me in a stateroom. We were cold. Theye gave us a warm shower, and we were lined up in the shower. Lerbrekk said “Oskar, pinch my arm. I don’t think we’ve survived this.” (Oskar Olsen).

Oskar’s wife and children were told that he was alive the day after. Just like many others, she did not know what had happened to him until the day after.

The survival suit marked 1981 tells us that Oskar the accident did not lead to him quitting his job in Stavanger Drilling. He later landed a job in aboard a semi-submersible rig working for a company in Trondheim. He was however, plagued by nightmares and consequences from the accident.

He saw a psychologist. It helped for a while, but it was not a permanent solution. “It has been a struggle. I’ve kept on fighting, but at the end of the day you have a family to take care of.”

Oskar quit his job three times but kept on working in the North Sea until 2006. Following a heart attack at work, he once and for all.

Oskar Johan Olsen who survived the Alexander L. Kielland accident holding the his survival suit which he wore after surviving the accident.


Further Reading:

The quotes above are from Oskar Johan Olsen and Oddbjørn Lerbrekk’s entries in the Memory Bank. Read the whole entries here:

Oskar Johan Olsen

Oddbjørn Lerbrekk


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