Alexander Kielland

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Event.png Alexander Kielland (accident?) Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Alexander L Kielland and Edda.jpg
Date27 March 1980
LocationNorth Sea,  Norway
DescriptionOil rig capsizing in 1980, the biggest disaster in Norwegian oil production. Theories of sabotage is a third rail subject.

Alexander L. Kielland was a Norwegian semi-submersible drilling rig that capsized while working in the Ekofisk oil field in March 1980, killing 123 people. The official narrative has always treated it as an accident. But theories of explosions or deliberate sabotage were suppressed from early on, and never followed up in any investigation.


The rig, located approximately 320 km east of Dundee, Scotland, was owned by the Stavanger Drilling Company of Norway and was on hire to the U.S. company Phillips Petroleum at the time of the disaster.

In driving rain and mist, early in the evening of 27 March 1980, more than 200 men were off duty in the accommodation on Alexander L. Kielland. The wind was gusting to 40 knots (74 km/h) with waves up to 12 metres (39 ft) high. The rig had just been winched away from the Edda production platform.

Minutes before 18:30, those on board felt a 'sharp crack' followed by 'some kind of trembling'. Suddenly the rig heeled over 30° and then stabilised. Five of the six anchor cables had broken, the one remaining cable preventing the rig from capsizing. The list continued to increase and at 18:53, the remaining anchor cable snapped and the rig capsized.

130 men were in the mess hall and the cinema. The rig had seven 50-man lifeboats and twenty 20-man rafts. Four lifeboats were launched, but only one managed to release from the lowering cables. (A safety device did not allow release until the strain was removed from the cables.) A fifth lifeboat came adrift and surfaced upside down; its occupants righted it and gathered 19 men from the water. Two of Kielland's rafts were detached and three men were rescued from them. Two 12-man rafts were thrown from Edda and rescued 13 survivors. Seven men were taken from the sea by supply boats and seven swam to Edda.

No one was rescued by the standby vessel Silver Pit, which took an hour to reach the scene. Of the 212 people aboard 123 were killed, making it the worst disaster in Norwegian offshore history since World War II, and the deadliest offshore rig disaster of all time up to that point. Most of the workers were from Rogaland.

Official narrative

In March 1981, a commission of inquiry concluded that the rig collapsed due to a fatigue crack in one of its six bracings (bracing D-6), which connected the collapsed D-leg to the rest of the rig.[1]

The report explicitly did not look for any explosion:

The report and its assessments are limited to the type of accident here faced. The report thus does not deal with other accident situations, e.g. ex. explosion accidents. Any reasonable time frame for the work would have been exceeded.[2]


What characterized the Kielland debate was the enormous pressure from the bereaved to turn the platform. An attempt was made to turn the platform in the autumn of 1980, but there were greater difficulties than expected and the attempt had to be abandoned. The commission of inquiry did not consider it necessary to turn the wreckage over. Work was nevertheless resumed and in September 1983 it was turned.

The rig was scuttled later that year at 700 meters deep in the Nedstrand Fjord after a search for missing bodies had been completed, as well as several tests to determine the cause of the disaster. According to Kielland-nettverket of bereaved families who have been lobbying for decades for a new investigation, the scuttling was rushed and happened after heavy political pressure [3]

Phone surveillance

A number of people who demanded a turning of the Kielland platform have stated that they were exposed to telephone surveillance in the early 80s, for the most part starting already in 1980, and all in such a way that it had to be eavesdropping via telephone (one heard one's own telephone conversations played back, a common weakness with the bugging technique used at the time). These included Odd Kristian Reme - (leader of the bereaved group), Aksel Kloster (Chairman of the Kielland fund and member of the investigation commission), Norvald Haugsdal (the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions's offshore secretary in Stavanger and Muffetangen's contact in Stavanger), Georg W. Tønnesen (main employee representative on the Kielland platform) and Svein Muffetangen (then offshore secretary in the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions) and at least two from the engineering side.[4]

One of the bugged engineers was Ole C. Østlund who later wrote a book on possible intentional sabotage as the cause.[5]


In 1992, engineer Ole C. Østlund published the book Sabotasjen mot Kielland (The sabotage against Kielland)

The theory is a third rail topic.

According to Colonel Johan M. Setsaas, "a group of trade unionists and engineers were very concerned by a number of indications that the broken platform leg was taken by a blast (sabotage) and not by wear and tear. They also wanted to turn the platform around, but didn't talk as loudly. All of these - except one - chose at the time to quickly shut up about this theory, "after countless encouragements".[5]

Ole C. Østlund was a highly regarded engineer who had participated in public planning committees and headed of turning of Kielland until 1983. In 1992, he published the book Sabotasjen mot Kielland (The sabotage against Kielland) explaining the - possibly intentional - explosion theory, the many technical evidence for this that exists, and his futile efforts to get this properly assessed.[6]

TV 2

In 1995, the Norwegian channel TV2 made a documentary exploring the explosion theory. The newsroom making the Dokument 2 program series was dissolved shortly after, in a "strange" decision.

“On the same day that TV-2 sold its first self-produced program on the international market, the editorial board who created this flagship program for Norway's most important commercial television station, is in reality decided dissolved and defunct... some Dokument 2 journalists are considering leaving the station. The head of the editorial board has called the decision "stupid and cynical", and many journalists will certainly agree with it, but the decision is first and foremost "strange".. Then the question remains: if the justifications given externally and internally should prove not to hold water, then what are the underlying motives? I feel like a fool for asking, because I'm pretty sure no one will answer.”
Ola Lars Andresen [7]

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  1. The Alexander L. Kielland accident, Report of a Norwegian public commission appointed by royal decree of 28 March 1980, presented to the Ministry of Justice and Police March, 1981 ISBN B0000ED27N
  2. The Alexander L. Kielland accident, Report of a Norwegian public commission appointed by royal decree of 28 March 1980, presented to the Ministry of Justice and Police March, 1981 ISBN B0000ED27N page 11
  3. page 197
  4. Bergens Tidende 7. July 1994; quoted in Grogate page 317
  5. a b Johan M. Setsaas, Grogate page 317
  7. Klassekampen 11. November 1995; quoted in Grogate page 259