Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Pacific Glory - Collision and Fire

Very few shipwrecks make headlines like that of a stricken tanker and history has shown us that despite lessons being learned these giants of the sea continue to be lost around the world. There are some that have become famous due to the amount of damage caused by the pollution - entire cargoes of crude oil washing up on beaches and the inevitable photos of birds and seals caught in the black slimy tide of death making front pages until once again they are forgotten until it happens again. 

The biggest of these oil tanker spills such as the Torrey Canyon in 1967 off the Scilly Isles and 11 years later the Amoco Cadiz breaking up on the beaches of Brittany made depressing reading for the public who called upon the shipping owners to do more to prevent these huge vessels breaking up when they run aground. 

But nothing could have prevented the disaster that befell the Pacific Glory on 23rd October 1970 when, while transiting south of the Isle of Wight, she was in collision with the tanker Allegro. At first the damage was seen to be serious but nothing like what was about to happen - explosions rocked the ship and plumes of black smoke filled the night air. A huge rescue operation swung into action with a pre-planned emergency response all ready to go.

Fire teams from nearby Portsmouth and Southampton as well as local lifeboats, several warships and tugs sped to the scene to assist. 29 of her crew were rescued but it soon became apparent that 13 others had died and the fire was not going to be extinguished soon. The brave fire teams boarded the ship and the intense heat was sprayed until it was safe to advance on the blaze.

Spraying the ship for the next 24 hours, fire crews battled to contain the inferno and ran the ship aground in Sandown Bay in order to stabilise the sinking hulk. By the time the fire was extinguished she was down by the stern and losing a little oil, thankfully not enough to cause an environmental catastrophe on the scale of the previous disasters.  

Two weeks of pumping the oil onto a smaller tanker and salvage operations led the ship to be stable enough to be towed into Lyme Bay where work could begin to prepare the ship to be towed to Holland. Much to the concerned residents of Devon she sat in the Bay for another week as water was pumped out of the ship and she slowly gained her height and was put under town three weeks after the collision and fire that had hit the headlines around the world. 

Tragically this was not the last time Pacific Glory would be hit with disaster. Upon her return to China a further explosion cost the lives of two workers before she was renamed Oriental Confidence and scrapped soon after. 

Two years ago I decided this story needed telling and have gathered enough evidence and interviews to be able to write a book on this huge shipwreck. If all goes to plan the book will be written by the end of 2019 but there is still time to gather further information. If you can help with any part of this story - whether it is newspaper articles or eyewitness accounts - then please get in touch

1 comment:

  1. I remember going to see this wreck when I was younger with my parents. We lived in Brading at the time and I was only 6.YO. I can remember it being so long it looked like 2 ships as the middle was under water. Cant help much with details, only what I read when I searched for more info a few years ago but would love to read the book when it comes out.