St Helena Online

Tag: wreck

Historian wants to bring Great War wreck back home

The Viola / Dias, photographed in the 1990s by  Lieutenant Philip Hall of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The Viola / Dias, photographed in the 1990s by Lieutenant Philip Hall of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A rusting trawler in South Georgia is thought to be the last surviving boat of its kind to have served in the First World War – and now a historian wants to return it toEngland.

The Hull Daily Mail says the Viola was converted to carry out anti-submarine patrols, and helped sink two German submarines off the British coast.

After the war, it was used for whaling off the coast of Africa, before being sold to an Argentinian firm that used it for sealing around South Georgia – renamed Dias.

It was laid up on the shore after the whaling station at Grytviken closed in the 1960s and was still there when scrap metal merchants landed on South Georgia, triggering the Falklands War. 

The vessel sank on its mooring in 1974, according to the Wikipedia website.

In 2004, the site says, the Dias and the neighbouring Albatros were refloated, cleared of all remaining oil, and beached.

An organisation, the “Friends of Viola/Dias“, has been set up to preserve the ship – either on South Georgia or in its home port of Hull.

A website dedicated to the ship says: “Viola’s story is unique: a remarkable story of fisheries, whaling, sealing, war and exploration during which she both weathered and witnessed many aspects of mankind’s 20th Century struggles on the sea.

“Viola was one of 50-or-so trawlers built for the Hellyer Boxing Fleet in 1906. By 1918 no less than twenty two of her sister vessels had been lost, to either the elements or enemy action in the Great War.

“Today, apart from this little ship, all physical trace of the once proud Hellyer fleet has disappeared.

“Viola/Dias is now the oldest surviving former steam trawler in the world with her steam engines still intact.”

In 2006 the Viola’s original bell was discovered on a farm in Norway and purchased by Hull Maritime Museum. In 2008 the bell was returned to the ship

The Hull Daily Mail quotes Dr Robb Robinson, who works at the Maritime Historical Studies Centre in Hull, saying it would cost about £500,000 to take the boat back to the UK on a barge, and a further £1m to restore it.

He said the centenary of the First World War probably provided the best chance to inspire a campaign to transport the ship home. “Its story is a voyage through the 20th Century,” he said. “For me, it would be a dream to see it come back after all this time.”

Great War boat could finally be coming home – Hull Daily Mail
Viola (trawler) – Wikipedia
Viola/Dias website

Yacht disaster that highlighted sea safety failings

Click the pic to see Bruce Salt's extraordinary images of the loss of the Queequeg
Click the pic to see Bruce Salt’s extraordinary images of the loss of the Queequeg

The wreck of the yacht Queequeg in James Bay brought home the failings in St Helena’s ancient marine laws, says the man in charge of reviewing them. 

The 40-year-old racing yacht, built by a celebrated Australian designer, was about to be sailed away from the island in late 2011 when its mooring snapped. The crew were ashore buying provisions.

Within minutes, the vessel was being pounded by surf on rocks by the Needle’s Eye, close to the Jamestown landing steps.

St Helena Government eventually agreed to pay compensation of £228,000 after it emerged that the crew had been directed to use temporary moorings that had been declared unfit.

Hedge Shuter’s company, Marine Maven (T&T) Ltd, oversaw the installation of “world class” new moorings below Ladder Hill Fort, in time for the arrival of the Governor’s Cup fleet in December 2012.

“I think the Queequeg did highlight the need to have proper regulation,” said Hedge – a qualified yachtmaster who carried out the police investigation into the wrecking.

And he told Saint FM listeners that laws may have to be changed following the marine review he is now carrying out for the government.

“Our Harbour Ordinance, 200 years old some of it, may not be relevant for today,” he said. “It may not be relevant for the future.

“SHG conducted an audit of the maritime sector. That report showed that some things that should be working aren’t working.

“The laws and stuff we’re working with are so out of date, they’re not applicable or they’re difficult to work with in this day and age.

“And that highlighted the need to actually conduct a review of the sector.”

Recommendations will eventually go before executive councillors. 

Yacht wreck owner gets £200,000 pay-out
GALLERY: The wreck of the Queequeg

Yacht wreck owner gets £200,000 pay-out

The hull of the Queequeg breaks up in a swirl of white water
BREAKING UP: The Queequeg was blown on to rocks within minutes

The wreck of the classic yacht Queequeg in James Bay in 2011 has resulted in an out-of-court settlement approaching a quarter of a million pounds.

The veteran racing yacht broke its mooring and was blown onto rocks at the Needle’s Eye within five minutes while owner Graham Elliot and his two crew were ashore.

They were just clearing Customs, ready to sail for Ascension, when the alarm was raised.

View across James Bay to the yacht on the rocks
ON THE ROCKS: Queequeg came to grief on Munden’s Point

An investigation found the St Helena Government’s moorings had been condemned as unsafe months earlier.

The Attorney General, Ken Baddon, has confirmed to Saint FM radio station that a settlement of £228,000 has been accepted.

St Helena Government has advertised a contract to lay – and maintain – new moorings in time for the Governor’s Cup yacht race at Christmas.

Yachtsmen have spoken of being unable to relax while at the island because of unreliable moorings, and it is not uncommon for drifting yachts to be retrieved by the ferry crew.

The Queequeg was built by a famous designer in Australia in 1972 and had competed in the Sydney-Hobart race. Mr Elliot bought her only 18 months before the wrecking and had her fully restored in Thailand.

She had arrived at the island on passage from South Africa to the UK, five days before she was wrecked.

Local ferry staff had directed her crew to a mooring, not knowing it had been declared unfit for use.

The Queequeg lies on its side, barely visible through white surf
WHITE WATER: The Queequeg could not be towed clear

It later emerged that the moorings had been commissioned only as a short term project by St Helena Tourism a year earlier.

No one was made responsible for supervising the moorings and they were not rated for the size or weight of vessels using them. No maintenance schedule was put in place.

Within weeks of the moorings being laid by a diver it was noticed that they were starting to fall apart because copper wire fittings were corroding.

Parts were replaced, but by January 2011 – eight months before the wreck of the Queequeg – all 20 moorings had been affected and the installer said they should all be taken out of use.

A police investigation found that despite this, no updated advice was published by the Tourism Department, and yachts continued to use the moorings.

Examination of the wreck found a rope had broken from the shackle attaching it to the chain on the seabed. A diver found shackles had corroded.

The wrecking was triggered by a change in weather conditions on the day.

Wreckage is lifted ashore by crane, showing the wooden frame of the yacht
SALVAGED: The yacht’s timber construction shows as wreckage is craned ashore

The police investigation was carried out by Sergeant Chris Shuter, a qualified yachtmaster and former yacht club commodore.

He made a number of recommendations, including that any new moorings should be professionally designed.

Queequeg owner Graham Elliot and his crew spoke of wrecking on Saint FM the day after it happened.

“We rushed to the dock and saw the mast waving from side to side as she was trounced on the rocks,” said Graham.

They had watched as the rescue boat crew tried to tow her free, but the swell had lifted her above the surf-line.

Laptops, cameras and other electrical equipment were destroyed but a couple of bags of clothes floated free and were salvaged.

“There’s no point in crying,” said Graham. “We can be thankful that we’re all safe and there’s nobody hurt.”

One of the crew, named Ted, said: “I’ve worked on boats for the last 40 years and this is the first time I’ve seen a boat break up. I’m devasted for Graham because he’s lost everything.

The yachtsmen said the understanding shown by Saints had been “very, very kind”.

GALLERY: The wreck of the Queequeg (pictures by Bruce Salt)

Saint FM / St Helena Independent

War wreck to be assessed after years of polluting bay

After decades of leaking oil into the waters of James Bay, the torpedoed wreck of the RFA Darkdale is to be surveyed by a team of experts from the UK. They head out to St Helena at the end of April.

A detailed article on the wartime wreck appears on the Mercopress website, here (with thanks to Joy Lawrence for spotting it).