The Piper Alpha Banner of Condolence by the Australian artist Julie Montgarrett is a beautiful artistic response to the Piper Alpha oil platform disaster of Wednesday 6 July 1988.
It is now one year on from the 30th anniversary of the disaster that shook the city of Aberdeen and sent shockwaves across the world. But there is never a less important time to remember the victims of the tragedy, and the names of the 167 men who died are written on each square of a grid that crosses the surface of the banner.
Presented to Aberdeen City Council by the Victorian Trades Hall Council of Melbourne in 1989, it represents a token of condolence to express the concern of workers in Australia over the accident.
The events of that fateful night in 1988 proved to be a watershed in the offshore oil and gas industry. The huge gas explosions that resulted from a failure in the permit system, in which the oncoming shift workers were not notified of a pressure safety valve being removed, caused unimaginable horror for the crew on board.
The subsequent Cullen Inquiry highlighted many failures in the safety and maintenance procedures and design issues of the platform.
It led to 106 recommendations and has made the North Sea a much safer place to work. Beyond the changes implemented to increase safety and make sure such a disaster does not happen again, the pain and grief of the victims’ families and friends, and the 61 survivors, is continual.
The textile banner, made of polyester and cotton, depicts a northern seascape with an oil platform on the horizon. A dark sky represents the beginning of the disaster late in the night.
The seabirds that visit offshore sites are also represented as “symbols of companionship and greeting” and themselves victims of the resultant oil leak. The map of Scotland stitched across the centre locates the platform approximately 120 miles north-east of Aberdeen and it is framed by messages from the Victorian Trades Hall Council.
The date recorded on the banner is July 7, the date on which the news of the disaster reached Australia due to the time difference.
For conservation reasons, the banner cannot be exposed to too much light and is not on permanent display.
To mark the anniversary of the disaster, visitors can see the banner this weekend at Aberdeen Maritime Museum.
Piper Alpha Banner of Condolence
Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Shiprow
Friday 5 – Sunday 7 July. Admission free. For opening times go to www.aagm.co.uk
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums:
- Aberdeen Art Gallery (reopening autumn 2019)
- Aberdeen Maritime Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- The Tolbooth Museum (open 7 days, admission free)
- Aberdeen Treasure Hub Museum Centre
For visiting information go to www.aagm.co.uk
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