A disastrous engine room explosion and fire onboard the Norwegian cargo vessel Etnefjell in mid-Atlantic in October 1968 cost 30 seamen their lives after they had abandoned ship in storm force conditions.

Etnefjell had been on passage from Frederikstad, Norway, to Botwood, Newfoundland, when she caught fire following an engine room explosion 450 miles south east of Cape Farewell. Five engineers died in the blast.

Apart from the master, chief officer and one other seaman the rest of the crew abandoned ship in two lifeboats. The remaining crew tried to extinguish the fire, but had to give up and retreated to a safer location on the ship where, for four days, they ate raw potatoes until the Polish factory ship Uran rescued them.

With winds blowing up to 90 knots, and with mountainous seas, Etnefjell drifted helplessly for two days before a Polish factory ship and the American Coastguard cutter Absecon arrived on scene.

The US Coastguard carried out a 200,00 square mile search over a period of eight days but the crew members who took to the lifeboats were never found.

The Dutch salvage tug Groningen battled through heavy seas for two days eventually securing a line on the Etnefjell and taking her in tow for Falmouth. In storm force 10 to 11 winds, the tow parted twice but the tug and her casualty reached port on November 22.

Condemned as a constructive total loss, Etnefjell was sold to Norwegian interests who had also bought the tanker Olav. The company used parts of both ships to build the bulker Besna which comprised of the fore part of Etnefjell and the stern section of the Olav.