Dismembered in 0.1 Seconds — Byford Dolphin Accident Explained

Moment of death dissected

Col Jung


Diver Truls Hellevik in May 1983, months before his extremely grisly death

In the wake of the 2023 Titan implosion, another disaster of a similar flavour has returned to the fore: the Byford Dolphin accident in 1983.

Regarded as an astonishingly brutal industrial incident, the lives of four saturation divers working on a Norwegian oil rig perished in a horrifying instant — their blood flash-boiled as the dissolved gases in their bodies and bloodstreams expanded 9-fold.

They exploded from the inside out — quite literally.

It gets worse.

One of the poor chaps — violently blasted through a small hatch — was gruesomely torn to pieces, spraying the deck with gory torrent.

British diver Roy Lucas and tender Billy Crammond both met a violent end on the Byford Dolphin

Like the five Titanic explorers, these five industrial workers from a generation earlier were victims of a catastrophic failure.

They were all very dead, very fast and in a very unpleasant manner.

Saturation Diving

In 1963, the first purpose-built drilling semi-submersible was launched.

These were essentially huge ships that could morph into oil and gas drilling platforms in the middle of the ocean. Ka-ching!

A semi-submersible oil rig like the Byford Dolphin

Our gripping tale centres on the Norwegian drilling rig Byford Dolphin — a state-of-the-art vessel built in 1974, with an impressive weight of 3,000 tonnes and a crew of 100. Armed with cutting-edge equipment, it was capable of drilling a staggering 6,100 meters (20,000 ft) deep.

The Byford boasted a small crew of four saturation divers that could perform maintenance work on the submersed part of the rig.

Operating at a depth of 80 metres (270 feet), these divers were subjected to 9 atmospheric pressure (atm) of ocean bearing down on them for weeks.