By Eilidh Whiteford
As islanders, residents of the Outer Hebrides are used to the odd unusual object washing up on the shore – but an entire oil rig platform, which ran aground at Dalmore Beach in Carloway last year, was still something of a surprise!
The semi-submersible drilling rig, 'Transocean Winner', was being towed by tug from Norway to Malta in August 2016 when the tow-line snapped during a storm while on passage west of the Hebrides.
And Carloway residents woke up on the morning of Monday, August 8th, to discover an oil rig sitting on the rocks at Dalmore.
A major recovery operation was launched by rig owners Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc, and following two weeks stranded at Dalmore, the Transocean was refloated from the rocks on Monday, August 22nd, before being towed to the sheltered waters of Broad Bay.
She stayed in Broad Bay while plans were made to load her onto offshore heavy transport semi-submersible boat the 'Hawk'; and eventually on October 7th last year, she left the Western Isles, arriving in Malta on October 25th to be stripped of fittings before transfer for scrapping in Turkey, arriving on November 1st.
The incident made headline news during the final summer months of 2016 – and saw Salvage Master Sylvia Tervoort, from Netherlands based company SMIT Salvage, visit Lewis for the very first time.
“Maybe I would never have visited the place if I had not been here for this project, but certainly I want to come back,” said Sylvia remembering her time in the Hebrides.
“The nature is stunning and the people real friendly. I had almost three months of my life here in this place, and I cherish my memories,” she continued. “They make me who I am, and along the way I learn and make friends.
“Friends you can rely on, sometimes you learn the hard way, but this island and its people are in my top three for sure!”
Island residents and businesses all took a keen interest in the removal project – with local companies Sea Trek and Sea Lewis both providing 24/7 fast boat cover to help ship equipment to the stranded rig, as well as crew transfers and other tasks, and engineers from Stornoway's Gordon Diesel Services Ltd provided a base and local expertise for Sylvia and her team.
In return, the Transocean Winner owners donated £120,000 to be split between the communities of Dalmore and Carloway, and an island-wide fund to assist young sporting residents to partake in mainland sporting events.
Sylvia herself delighted in giving a very popular public talk at Lews Castle Collage at the time, to expand on the work undertaken by her salvage team and explain about the salvage industry as a whole.
Having worked at sea since studying at nautical college from aged 17, Sylvia told of some of the other salvage operations she had worked on, including the Costa Concordia disaster, when the cruise liner crashed on the Italian island of Giglio in January 2012; a job which had been brought back to mind with the Transocean Winner.
“The Dalmore project was very challenging in different ways,” she said. “Like a project in a remote location is not always easy, and we have seen that as well during our involvement in the Costa Concordia, which happened as well on an island, for example considering logistics combined with weather and ferries.
“It was a wonderful project, we worked on a small island and got to know the people. Just like here, I realise working on a small island is not that bad. It becomes a team effort and that includes the locals.”
She added: “It was impressive to receive very warm-hearted messages from people who I never met, and invitations to the island whenever I want to come back,” she added. “That makes it all worth it to me, besides the actual execution of the work!”