A story in pictures – 25 photos telling the tale of stranded Worthing digger ‘Moby Dig'

It is two years to the day since a giant digger got stuck in the sea off the coast of Worthing during work on the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm.

Thursday, 4th April 2019, 11:18 am
Updated Thursday, 4th April 2019, 11:47 am
Moby Dig
Moby Dig

We look back at the long and heart-warming tale of how the people of a seaside town found space in their hearts for 'Moby Dig', and how it was finally liberated.

On April 4, 2017, a digger used for work on the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm was spotted underwater off the coast of Worthing.
I should imagine it got stuck, said onlooker Andrew Sharp, who has been following the construction closely from his nearby home in Western Road. The digger is specially designed to drive in the sea, while keeping its driver cabin elevated above the waves, but something appeared to have gone wrong.
A spokesperson for the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm said: We can confirm that the elevator excavator is currently immobilised and the operating personnel are safely back onshore. For safety reasons a guard vessel is on site and buoys have been placed around the excavator. We are awaiting the next low tide to seek to move the vehicle.
One day later and the digger as this point still unnamed has started to draw a lot of interest from residents and beach walkers. In an update Rampion said they were still investigating how it became stuck but hoped to get the digger out at low tide later that day.
A number of organisations, including HM Coastguard are spotted at the scene, monitoring the situation. A spokesman for the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) said: We are aware of the incident and are providing advice to the developers to help them deal with it as quickly as possible. We believe the diesel on board does not pose a significant risk to the marine environment.
With no concrete date set for the 800-tonne digger to be rescued, our staff thought it needed a name. And who better to decide the name than our readers. We came up with five digger-themed options and let readers vote for their favourite in an online poll.
As the saga of the digger stuck in the sea off Worthing beach continued into a fourth day, one company came forward to say they could get the machine back to shore in less than four hours. Richard Tully, managing director of excavator repair specialist Atlas Technical Services, said: If they just left me to it I could have that out of the sea in under four hours.
Nearly 3,000 readers cast their votes and finally the lonely digger stuck in the sea had a name. Meet Moby Dig, Worthings favourite sea-bound elevator excavator
In what turned out to be a close two-horse race, readers narrowly chose Moby Dig over Digger McDigface.
It appeared for a while that the naming of the digger might be short lived, with a large offshore construction vessel spotted off the coast of Worthing the same day. Rumour was that this huge ship - the 127ft specialist vessel complete with crane might have arrived to lift Moby out of its watery predicament. But it was not to be.
A few days after readers made their will known, Moby Digs owners Rampion responded to the charming nickname. A Rampion spokesman said: We very much welcome the interest the local community has continued to show in the Rampion development. While were obviously treating this as a serious incident, its heartening to see the digger has brought out the creative side of peoples imaginations. However the spokesman stopped short of promising to rename the stricken digger.
Speaking on Tuesday, April 18, a Rampion spokesperson said: Were continuing to work on a plan to retrieve the vehicle over the coming weeks. Were investigating options to retrieve the vehicle by both land or sea and thank local people for bearing with us over this period. At this stage the rescue was being hampered by the fact that the digger is stranded in relatively shallow waters, which prevented many larger rescue craft from getting close enough.
With some readers expressing concern that Moby Dig was lonely, especially at night, a group of local kite surfers decided to do something about it. Members of the Lancing Kitesurfing Club announced that the digger has been made an honorary member.
Olly Lawrence, chairman of the Lancing Kitesurfing club, said: It was just poking a bit of fun really. We didnt expect him to be out there for quite a while. Were used to looking out to sea and seeing the horizon. I think anything out there is quite unusual.
Spring tides on Friday, April 30 led many people to comment that when the tide is out most of the digger was above the water. Some wondered if it could be pulled out of the sea with a cable when the tide was out.
As the weeks went on the digger became something of an attraction in the local area, with some residents even suggesting it be made a permanent fixture. However underneath the surface was a whole month of uncertainty as to when and how Moby Dig was going to be freed.
More than two months since the 80-tonne elevator excavator got stuck, Rampion still had no final plans to liberate it. A spokesman for E.ON said on June 8: We do not have a date to go in and do that. It is important that we get it right. It is obviously taking a high degree of planning.
After months of languishing in the sea off of Worthing beach, plans had finally been made by mid-June to get it out. Shoreham Port tweeted to say that the 54-metre-long heavy lifting vessel Cormorant was planning to remove the digger between June 19-23, weather permitting.
Workers were spotted climbing on the digger getting it prepared for liberation from the sea.
Slightly outside the original timeframe of June 19-23, the giant lifting vessel Cormorant arrived in Worthing. Shipped in from the Netherlands, the Cormorant barge featured two 300-tonne cranes and has arrived at Worthing. Importantly, the vessel had a shallow draft, so it could navigate the low waters around the digger.
Specialist workers climb onto the digger and begin tying cables round it, ready for the move.
The rescue process had to be slow and careful to ensure that the barge did not get damaged, and that no pieces of the digger fell off into the water.
Securely wrapped in thick cables and attached to the crane of the Cormorant barge, the digger begins its ascension.
It has happened. Stranded off the coast of Worthing for more than two months, Rampion digger Moby Dig is been finally freed. A moment of elation but also one of quiet sadness Moby Dig is no longer our odd water fixture.
Two years on from the fateful day that an 80-tonne digger got stuck in the sea, Moby Digs work exists to this day. The Rampion Offshore Wind Farm is now fully up and running and can easily been seen from the shoreline.