Wick Coastguard Rescues. 




As reported in the John O'Groat Journal - Friday 6th March 1959

Station Officer Eric Campbell


"Swedish Cargo Ship Stranded At Freswick."

After the Swedish cargo ship, Stellatus, ran aground on a reef on the coast at Freswick, about a mile-and-a-half south of Skirza Head, on Tuesday, Wick lifeboat took the master and crew of 25 off in two separate trips - one in the afternoon and the other in the evening. The Stellatus (1800 tons) was still on the reef yesterday, (5th March 1959), her position unchanged, as far as could be judged by salvage experts who saw the vessel.

Stellatus - the John O'Groat Journal

(This picture is reproduced  from  "The John O'Groat Journal" newspaper - with kind permission.)

A close up of the ship - Wick lifeboat is alongside - with the salvage tug Metinda III in the background.

(Click on the picture to enlarge.)

Bound for Ellsmere Port, near Liverpool, with a cargo of wood pulp from Obo, Finland, the Stellatus went aground during thick haze between four and five o'clock in the morning. As she was in no immediate danger, she did not want aid at first. The ship had run on a reef under a high cliff a short distance south of the ruins of Buchollie Castle, ancient seat of the Mowat family. It was almost high tide at the time.

The vessel was lying parallel to the land, about 120 yards off shore. A fresh south-easterly wind was blowing, and, in case of danger, Wick lifeboat was called out, under the command of Coxswain Neil Stewart. Wick Coastguards, with District Officer James Addison in charge, and life saving apparatus crew were also summoned.

The Wick seine-net boat, Starlight (Skipper George Sinclair), on her way to the west, was first to arrive at the ship and stood by for some time. When the lifeboat arrived, she took up position on the leeward side of the Stellatus - between the ship and the rocks.

From the clifftop the coastguards succeeded in getting a line aboard the stranded vessel at the second attempt. Mr. Addison said: "With the first shot the wind carried the line past the ship, but the second one fell over her stern."

Thus everything was in readiness to effect a rescue by land and/or sea should the need arise. A police patrol car was in the vicinity and relayed messages by radio to Wick. Mr. D. M'Hutchon, superintendent of the Deep Sea Mission, Wick, had also gone to Freswick and organised a canteen service for the coastguards and other helpers on the clifftop.

In the early forenoon, members of the crew of the Stellatus began transferring luggage and personal belongings to the lifeboat. The salvage tug, Metinda III, based at Scapa, arrived at 10.30 a.m. and stood by. In the forenoon an R.A.F. plane from Lossiemouth flew over. Commander John Woolecombe, Coastguard Inspector for the area, who was out at Freswick most of the day, said the plane had been sent up in case any further assistance would be required.

Rescue members on clifftop - The John O'Groat Journal

(This picture is repoduced  from    
 "The John O'Groat Journal" newspaper - with kind permission.)

Coastguards and members of the life-saving apparatus crew standing by after having put a line aboard the Stellatus.

(Click on the picture to enlarge.)

After midday, although there were still no immediate danger, 12 members of the crew were taken off by the lifeboat and were landed at Wick about 2.30 in the afternoon. The ship was badly holed and the engine room and forward hold were flooded with about three feet of water which was still rising. The ship had neither light or steam.

The men who came off were stewards and engineers, whose presence was not required for the salvage attempt. On their arrive at Wick the seamen were taken to a hotel for a hot meal and later went to the Deep Sea Mission. After a short stay in Wick the lifeboat returned to the ship. In the early evening Captain Klintberg decided that it would not be safe for the others to remain aboard the vessel through the night. The lifeboat then took off the captain and the rest of the crew and landed them at Wick about 8 p.m.

They had a hot meal at the Deep Sea Mission and arrangements for their accommodation for the night were made by Mr. David Sandison, fish salesman, who is local agent for the Shipwrecked Mariner's Society. Yesterday (Thursday 5th March 1959), the responsibility for their further accommodation was transferred to the Swedish Consul in Wick, Mr. John S. Duncan, fish salesman.

When he stepped ashore from the lifeboat at Wick, Captain Klintberg said he intended to go back aboard the vessel the following day to see if it were possible to salvage her, but it would actually be a matter for the insurance company to decide. He thought his ship was badly holed. This is the master's first mishap after being at sea for 40 years. He has commanded the Stellatus for the past five years.

The chief steward, Ivor Holm, said: "I was in bed when the vessel struck but I hardly felt anything because I believe the ship was going slowly at the time. Water rose fairly quickly in the hold and engine room and soon we had neither steam or light. I think the vessel is badly holed."

The chief Steward, who belongs to Hoganas, was making his third trip in the Stellatus as steward, but he had sailed in her as cook for six months in 1939.

Charles Olnsson, 62-year-old oiler, said: "I was on watch in the engine room when the ship struck at 4.25 a.m. We were only doing half speed. There was not much impact. We had been dodging about awaiting daylight to go through the Pentland Firth. There was fairly dense fog at the time.

The youngest member of the crew is 17-year-old mess boy, Ake Engstrom, Stockholm, who was on his first trip to sea, as was 18-year-old engine room boy, Kjell Claesson of Ronneby, Sweden.

Another junior member of the crew is 18-year-oldmess boy, Bo Karlsson, who is on his second voyage.

Following the arrival by train on Wednesday afternoon of Captain M. Anderson, salvage officer, Metal Industries Ltd., who was accompanied by Mr. James Thomson, diver, a survey was made of the ship's position. Captain Klintberg and members of his crew went out with Captain Anderson from Wick in a Keiss fishing boat. On their return, it was learned that there was little change in the position of the Stellatus, and that the tug, Salveda, had left the Clyde and was making for Freswick.

Stellatus with Spectators - The John O'Groat Journal

(This picture is areproduced  from the " John O'Groat Journal" newspaper - with kind permission.)

Spectators watching the scene from the clifftop.

(Click on the picture to enlarge.)

Following a strong south-easterly wind during the night, it was found that it was impossible to make another survey of the ship from the sea yesterday morning. Captain Anderson and Mr. Thomson went out by road form Wick and inspected the ship from the land. The Salveda was on the scene, along with the Metinda III.

On returning to Wick, Captain Anderson said: "With the bad weather nothing can be done to-day. It is impossible to get out to the ship and we cannot see from the shore if there is any change in her condition." In view of the fact that no salvage attempt could be made yesterday, the Metinda III left to go to Aberdeen for refuelling, leaving the Salveda standing by.

Further stories of the Stellatus can be read (with photo's) as reported by:
the "The Coastguard" magazine
the "Press & Journal" newspaper Back to Wick Rescue's page.


Home Page


Go Back One Screen

Top Of Page

Coastguard Home Page
Sign the Guest Book Click here to E-Mail me

Home Objectives Coastguard Home Bibliography Royal Navy Home Webmaster   What's New Site Map My Thanks
50th Anniversary Memorial of George Robb Disaster.
Then and Now Winners 150th Anniversary Station History
COCK'PATH Cock'path
Then and Now