102 years ago this week, on 15 October 1912, the French steamer Abertay went ashore in fog at St. Loy Cove in Cornwall. Nothing unusual about that you might think: indeed, going ashore in fog was once a common cause of loss in the good old British climate.
What was more unusual about this one was that another vessel loomed out of the fog right next to them.
‘She encountered very thick fog . . . The crew were astounded to find themselves alongside a large steamer; they shouted but got no reply from the vessel that towered over them, and they took her for an abandoned wreck. The Abertay was badly holed aft and, fearing she would sink, the crew clambered aboard the other vessel. The Newlyn lifeboat was launched at 6am, and the Mousehole lifesaving apparatus was on the scene but not required. By daylight, seeing there was no danger, the crew reboarded and saved their personal effects.’ (1)
That vessel was the South America, which had gone ashore only seven months earlier, and which was abandoned after attempts to refloat her had failed. A wreck had come to the rescue!
For an astonishing picture of the two together at St. Loy Cove, please mouse over the picture at the bottom here which then automatically enlarges. You can see how it would have been safer to clamber aboard until daylight came and the weather lifted, rather than jump into a sea of unknown depth, in an unknown location, and risk injury and death. For scale look at the figures at bottom left.
Local dive guides note the wreckage of the two as now well mingled.
There are numerous ways in which multiple wreck events can occur at the same location; in the same weather event; by coincidence, months or centuries apart; or even as one wreck becomes a navigational hazard, which promptly causes others in short order. There are also cases of crews involved in multiple wreck events: more on that theme over the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, for a previous post mentioning two U-boats wrecked under tow in the same event but in different locations, the second one fetching up next to an earlier wreck, please click here.
(1) original newspaper report, reproduced in Larn, Shipwreck Index of the British Isles, Vol.1, Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset.