Nfld. & Labrador

Ocean Ranger victim's photos donated to The Rooms

It's nearly 33 years ago that the Ocean Ranger oil rig sank off the coast of Newfoundland, killing all 84 men aboard. One mother has donated her son's photos to The Rooms Provincial Archives in St. John’s to show a bit about what life was like for the crew.

Mother of Ocean Ranger victim donated his photos to The Rooms

7 years ago
Duration 3:24
A series of photographs taken by one of the victims on the Ocean Ranger rig have surfaced, and his mother has donated the photos to the The Rooms Provincial Archives in St. John's.

A series of photographs taken by one of the victims on the Ocean Ranger rig have surfaced, and his mother has donated the photos to the The Rooms Provincial Archives in St. John's.

David Boutcher was one of the 84 men who died on the Ocean Ranger when the rig sank on Valentine's Day, 1982.

As the 33rd anniversary of Canada's worst tragedy at sea since the Second World War approaches, Boutcher's mother has donated the photos taken by her son to the Provincial Archives in St. John's.

Priscilla Boutcher says she wasn't sold on the idea of her son working on an offshore rig.

"I was always saying, 'Are you sure you're safe?' — and he felt safe on it at the time and he was young and making good money," she said.

Looking at her son's photos after his death was difficult, so Boutcher put them in an album, not realizing what they could mean to other families.

"It was emotionally upsetting but it was valuable to me. I had them for years here in my album not knowing that it was valuable to other people and when I look back on it now I realize that it's history."

Inside look

There are more than 50 photos in the album; men at work on the doomed rig, shots of helicopters landing, supply vessels and life boats launching, but also workers with big smiles and no indication of the disaster to come.

Larry Dohey, with The Rooms in St. John's, says the photos taken by David Boutcher will give people a never seen before look inside life on the Ocean Ranger. (CBC)
The Rooms archivist Larry Dohey saw the photos for the first time at a gathering for families of victims of the Ocean Ranger disaster.

According to Dohey, there was a lot of tears shed by everyone who saw them.

"She [Boutcher] had a difficult time even showing the album to someone else," said Dohey.

"This is her son's work, and I was surrounded at the time by people who had lost sons on the Ocean Ranger. I'd never seen anything like it before."

Life on the rig

Dohey added that the photos will give researchers better insight into what was life was like for the rig workers — and the value is clear to him.

The Ocean Ranger, as seen by David Boutcher, some time in the 1980s before the rig sank in a severe storm. (Submitted)
"There's not a lot of photographs that have survived of the guts of the Ocean Ranger," he said.

"Now for the first time we can bring someone onto the rig we can say this is what these young men back in the 1980s saw and experienced on the rig, this is some of the activities that they were participating in, this is what the vessel looked like, this is how big it was."

It's been 33 years since her son's death, but Boutcher hopes putting the photos on display at The Rooms Provincial Archives will help keep the Ocean Ranger disaster present in people's memories.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?