The Odyssey




This beautiful lady is the ODECO Ocean Odyssey. The year is 1983; she has her winter coat on because she has been up in Alaska the past year working for ARCO and is now looking for tarmac in Seattle for a little relaxation and refurbishing. From here she will slide down the coast to work off California until late 1984, then she is off to the North Sea. She was designed to drill wells up to 25,000 feet, was self propelled, and one the largest, state of art semi-submersibles for the time.


At birth, in Japan, she was given the name Ocean Ranger II but before she finished her stint in Alaska her namesake, the Ocean Ranger, capsized with all hands off Newfoundland in February 0f 1982 in one of the worse tragedies in oilfield history. In a re-christening ceremony of the rig to change her name, the president of ODECO at the time, a Mr. Hugh Kelly, said at the ceremony,


"We are not unmindful of the hazardous nature of our business and have, therefore, assigned our best people to man this splendid creation. Our hearts, highest hopes, and our prayers for success of our mission go with the Odyssey."


Her re-naming was, itself, an omen of things to come for the Odyssey.


In 1988, 130 miles NNE of Aberdeen, drilling at 16,000 feet for ARCO, the Odyssey suffered a significant loss of surface control after a very high pressure casing kick. Circulating pressure was not sufficient to overcome the kick, an attempt to close rams at the sub-sea BOP was only partially successful and flow could be seen at sea level surrounding the riser.


All hands were sent to the life boats, save four floor hands who stayed behind to try and control the well thru the choke manifold, and a radio man ordered to continue to send SOS's. The CM line burst, and explosion occurred and the well caught fire. Fire bellowed up thru the moon pool and enveloped the rig floor and topsides. The four floor hands sheared the drill pipe, bailed over the rails into the open sea and were eventually picked up by the lifeboats. The radio man, only 24 years old, was killed. All together 66 out of 67 crew members escaped.



Divers from the support vessel, MSV Sta-dive, were sent to blow the Odyssey's mooring lines so she could be floated away from the well. When moved the rig's riser package failed to release and it parted. ROV's from the Sta-dive found the entire BOP stack listing some 15 degrees with sheared drill pipe and pieces of the riser assembly draped over it. All the pipe rams were shown to be closed but flow was seen coming around the drill pipe and up thru the Hydrill. Adair, just a month off the nearby, catastrophic Piper Alpha incident, was called in to have a look, but little could be done.


A nearby floater, the Henry Goodrich, arrived on location, as did another support vessel, and divers were actually able to tie into the BOP on the Arco well and into the Goodrich's pumps. The well was killed and ultimately permanently plugged with cement.


The Odyssey was towed to Dundee, Scotland for salvaging efforts, mostly her topside remains.


While in port being dismembered she caught fire three more times, on three different occasions, likely related to cutting torches and combustible fluids still on board, and had to be drenched by pump barges several times with water from the Tay River.






Photos in Dundee


The Odyssey stayed in Dundee rusting away until 1994 and was sold to a consortium of four countries, Russia, Norway, the US and the Ukraine under the name, Sea Launch. She was completely reoutfitted as a launch vessel for satellite and GPS satellite rockets.

The first two attempted launches off her deck were disasters, predictable given the Odyssey's propensity for bad luck, it seemed; the first launch blew up at lift off and did significant damage to her topsides, again, the second launch got several hundred feet up, and out, then crashed into the water.


Sea Launch finally got its stuff together and has now successfully launched over 200 rockets carrying various types of satellites off the Odyssey platform.



In 2010 the Russians took control of the consortium and left the US, Norway and the Ukraine with minority interests. Today, the Odyssey floats somewhere in the S. Pacific and still acts as a launch platform for satellite rockets. Her new profession seems to suit her well, the Odyssey's odyssey thru life still underway.


We are reminded of another great story of similar resilience, here, on Oily Stuff and this quote from George Herbert...


"A great ship asks deep water."