ESSO DURHAM was outward bound from Fawley
after discharging a cargo of stabilised Arabian crude from Ras Tanura.
The explosion occurred in No.4 tank and was luckily limited to that tank
because nos 3 centre + 5 port, starboard and centre tanks were ballasted.
Apparently an adapter plate had to be used for the Butterworth machines
when used on no. 4 tanks because the tank was partially
under the forrard accommodation.
No. 4 centre had been cleaned and the port Butterworth had been removed.
On 29th January the vessel was about 100 miles west of Gibraltar.
At about 1345 a party of four ABs and one SOS
started removing the Butterworth from the starboard deck opening of no.4 centre tank.
The carrier for the hose had a wing nut missing
and while being removed the other wing nut and the hing pin came loose
and the carrier fell into the tank.
One of the seamen reported hearing a thump as it appeared to hit something on the way down.
There was a flash and a rumble
and "the party round the opening prudently decided to run forward and started to do so".
There were at least three explosions.
The fore and aft bulkheads seperating no.4 centre tank from the no.4 wing tanks were blown
outwards and the shell plating above the waterline in both wing tanks was blown outboard.
The main deck above no.4 tanks was bulged upward with some tearing of the deck plates.
The bulkhead to nos. 3 + 5 were bulged and split.
The view from the bridge was completely obscured
by thick black smoke and flames from the aftereffects of the explosions.
I sailed with the second mate that was on the bridge at the time
and, having just recovered from being blown up on the ESSO PLYMOUTH,
he left the bridge in a hurry telling the cadet and helmsman to keep up.
Somewhere there are pictures of the damage because the second mate,
who was Master of the "World's Favourite Tanker" when I met him, had copies.
The damage was spectacular and the bridge front looked
as if it had been machine gunned as the rivets were shot at it.
Most of the above is from the "Report of Court (No.8028) s.s. "Esso Durham" O.N. 300766".
"20. The court has considered a number of pos-
sible causes of this casualty and has come to the
conclusion that the most probable cause of the first
explosion was that the cast brass hose carrier in
No. 4 centre tank fell off the Butterworth hose after
leaving the tubular rail while being removed from
the tank at the conclusion of tank washing in that
tank and in its fall struck a magnesium anode,
thereby causing an incendive spark which ignited gas
in the tank and that the subsequent explosions and
fire resulted from such first explosion."