The Betelgeuse oil tanker, built in St Nazaire in 1968 and named after a distant star, exploded at the Whiddy Oil Terminal in Bantry on 8 January 1979. The explosion and fire that followed resulted in the death of some 50 people, including 42 French nationals from the crew.
It was 12 hours after the explosion before the shattered French tanker sank but, because of the toxic and inflammable gases in the immediate area, it was two weeks before the bodies of the dead could be recovered.
This dramatic and tragic event is commemorated in the Abbey Graveyard which overlooks the bay. The ship's bell which was recovered from the wreck is part of a hillside memorial sculpture.
Check out my review of Whiddy Island Disaster - I am cork - on Qype