«Pioneer» – The Tragic Fate of the North Sea Divers

North Sea Divers from Pioner Movie

North Sea deep-sea diver Peter, played by Aksel Hennie, dreams of being the first diver at 500 m depth at the very beginning of the Norwegian oil adventure.

With the Ekofisk oil field discovery by Phillips Petroleum Company in 1969, the Norwegian oil adventure really began. Production from the field started on 15 June 1971, and in the following years a number of major discoveries were made. Thanks to the efforts of the many pioneer divers who lost their lives and all those who were disabled while working at great depths, Norwegians now can enjoy their wealth. The thriller film Pioneer focuses on the deep-sea divers and their tragic fate.

Cruel statistics

The film sets focus on the North Sea divers working conditions and methods. Inspections and repairs on the seabed were absolutely necessary to ensure exploration, development and operation, and the work was associated with extremely high risk.

The pioneer divers were constantly exposed to serious accidents and deaths, and many have struggled with major health problems. The cruel statistics show that about 40 percent of the North Sea divers died, 90 percent were in life-threatening situations at work, and 85 percent of those survived have suffered from decompression sickness (“the bends”) in addition to avascular necrosis, pulmonary disease COPD and cancer. 30 percent have been diagnosed with brain injury, 96 percent of those studied, have had their quality of life significantly reduced and 23 divers have so far committed suicide.

Have sued Norway

The surviving North Sea divers have sued the Norwegian state for damages, but lost in the Supreme Court. Seven of the divers have chosen to open a case against Norway at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR).

The Norwegian Parliament has approved a special compensation scheme that can provide every pioneer diver about 408,000 dollars and 33,000 dollars in restitution payment. 340 applied, 80 have been rejected.

Movie Official Trailer Pioneer:



Text by: Thor Bugge Lanesskog

Photo by: Friland Film

Sources: Regjeringen.no, Wikipedia

Categories: Culture, Film & TV, History

2 replies

  1. I’m glad they’re having their stories told.

  2. Is there a roster of pioneer divers who dies? I have heard second-hand that a friend of mine from high school, George Frost, died while diving in the North Sea, but I cannot confirm. My last contact with him early 1970s he was a diver for a firm in Louisiana.

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