San Tiburcio: Moray Firth

Steam Tanker (20th Century)

Site Name San Tiburcio: Moray Firth

Classification Steam Tanker (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) San Tebercio; Tarbat Ness; Hilton Of Cadboll; Balintore; San Tiburcio

Canmore ID 101913

Site Number NH97NE 8001

NGR NH 95403 77599

Datum WGS84 - Lat/Long

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Maritime - Highland
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Maritime
  • Former County Not Applicable

Archaeology Notes

NH97NE 8001 9540 7760

N57 46.5667 W3 45.5333

NLO: Tarbat Ness [name: NH 949 878]

Balintore [name: NH 866 756].

Formerly entered as Site no. 8421

Quality of fix = HF

Evidence = Swept by Wire(Two Ship/Boat Drift/Drag Sweep)

Horizontal Datum = OGB

General water depth = 31

Orientation of keel/wreck = 022/202

Circumstances of Loss Details


The tanker SAN TIBURCIO was mined. It broke in two and sank within 45 minutes of the explosion. The vessel was on passage from Scapa Flow to Invergordon. It was carrying 2193 tons of fuel and aircraft floats.

Surveying Details


18 May 1940. A buoy was laid 457 metres NE of the wreck.

6 May 1958. The buoy is to be withdrawn.

10 August 1976. The site was examined on 29 May 1975 at 57 46 34N, 003 45 32W. Trisponder ranges: moray firth hf patt 1 297.42, patt 2 244.55. Or decca [n scot] red h 17.8, purple a 62.4. A two ship drift sweep was carried out. The sweep cleared at 19.1, but fouled at 19.8 metres. The least echosounder depth was 19.2 in a general depth of 30.7 metres. The wreck is 175 metres (574 feet) long, and is lying orientated 022/202 degrees. An excellent side scan sonar trace shows the wreck lying in two sections at right angles to each. The divers report that the wreck is on its side. The sweeping attempt was inconclusive due to the very weak tidal stream, but the clear water depth can be accepted when the echosounder and diving report are taken into account.

Report by HMS ECHO.

12 June 1981. The site is reported to be a large wreck, broken in two just aft of midships. The keel is orientated 022/203 degrees. The least depth found whilst diving was 22 metres [below lowest astromical tide/chart datum] in a general depth of 33 metres.

Report by H W Williams, 5 June 1981.

6 August 1984. The wreck was located using horizontal sextant angles in the precise charted position and is now regularly dived upon.

Report by T Jones, 27 July 1984.

1 November 1984. The wreck now belongs to Peterhead Waste Metal Co. The highest part of wreck stands 16 metres above the seabed.

Report by T Jones.

21 December 1984. The wreck lies upright in 3 parts, with about 55 metres between each section. The divers report that the oil tanks are still full.

Report by B Greig.

11 November 1985. The wreck has started to break up over the past year. It is still upright and in 2 pieces.

Report by M R Marle, 17 October 1985.

28 August 1989. The wreck now lies in two separate sections upright on seabed. The bow section, about 160 feet (48.7 metres) long, lies on an orentation of 000/180 degrees [the bows to the south]. The stern section is almost at right angles to the bow - about 30 metres away. The wreck is decaying fairly rapidly. A Royal Naval team recently removed the gun using explosives and this lead to a large amount of oil leaking from stern section. This is presumably from the engine fuel tanks as the cargo tanks are empty. The oil tank hatches in the forward section have also been also blown off and these tanks are now empty. A fair number of shell heads/projectiles [at least 20 seen] remain in the vicinity of the gun mounting and these are considered by an ordnance disposal expert to be very dangerous if removed from the water.

Report by Sgt J Leigh, RAF Kinloss, 10 August 1989.

10 June 1993. The wreck is now starting to collapse. The bow section superstructure is rapidly falling in and the hull plates are falling off. The centre of the wreck is in 57 46 32.5N, 003 45 35W [by GPS]. A small amount of oil is still leaking out.

Report by J Leigh, 27 April 1993.

Hydrographic Office, 1995.

(Classified as steel tanker with cargo of fuel oil: date of loss cited as 4 May 1940). San Tiburcio: this vessel was mined 4 miles, 330 deg from Tarbat Ness, broke in two and sank.

Registration: London. Built 1921. 5995grt. Length: 124m. Beam: 16m.

(Location of loss cited as N57 46.57 W3 45.53).

I G Whittaker 1998.

Material reported under RoW amnesty (2001):

A1938 1 porthole, 1 decanter: from seabed

A2167 1 broken ship's telegraph: from seabed

A4266 5 shell cases, 7 portholes, 1 valve: from seabed.

NMRS, MS/829/35.

As illustrated by Macdonald and Baird, this steam-driven bulk tanker represents a typical example of an early (inter-wars) vessel of the type, having the engines aft and a large superstructure (accommodation) block amidships. Smaller superstructure blocks are evident at bow and stern. The published photograph records the vessel as having a straight stem and counter stern. Masts and single derricks (presumably for hoses) are provided forward and aft as well as central catwalk or 'flying bridge' above the weather deck. The ventilators and pipework characteristic of this type of ship are evident.

The remains of this vessel are regularly visited by recreational divers and lie 5.8 nm SSE of Tarbat Ness lighthouse and 4.5nm ENE of Hilton of Cadboll, in a charted depth of about 30m and on a seabed of unstated type. It is not buoyed for navigation but is charted [Wk} with a wire-swept clearance of 19.1m.

The omission of this loss by R and B Larn (1998) suggests that the ship was considered an Admiralty war risk, rather than carrying insurance from Lloyd's.

[A photograph in service and an underwater artist's impression are reproduced by Macdonald; Baird reproduces the former].

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 27 February 2004.

R Macdonald 1993; R N Baird 2003.

HO chart no. 223 (published 1978, amended 1992).

Length: 413 ft (125.9m)

Beam: 53.4 ft (16.2m)

Draught: 31.1 ft (9.5m)

5995 grt; 3618 nrt; 8266 dwt

Constructed of steel decks, web frames and longitudinal framing, she was originally intended to carry petroleum, but was immediately converted for the carriage of (heavy) oil fuel.

She was built by the Standard Ship Building Corporation at Shooter¿s Island, New York, being launched on 29 January 1921 and delivered to the Eagle Oil and Shipping Co. The single triple-expansion engine (of 180 psi pressure and 544 nhp) was built by the Sun Shipbuilding Co., Chester, Pennsylvania. The `saint' name of this vessel reflects the place of her owner's company in trade from the Mexican oilfields. Following the collapse in the Mexican oil trade during the 1920's, the vessel traded more widely around South America.

At the outset of war, the ship was chartered by the Ministry of War Transport and used for the transport of fuel to Scapa Flow. She was bound from Scapa Flow to Invergordon with a cargo of fuel oil and aircraft floats when mined (4 May 1940) by a contact mine laid some three months earlier from the German submarine U9. The ship broke in two on being mined, the two portions remaining on the surface for long enough to avoid loss of life.

The statement that this vessel was sunk was sunk by a contact mine may be doubted. The pattern of damage illustrated by Macdonald is entirely consistent with the detonation of a magnetic (influence) mine beneath the keel amidships, breaking the ship's back. Contact mines, in contrast, typically detonate against the sides forward, causing the plates to start but not causing immediate catastrophic damage.

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 1 March 2004.

L Zanelli 1970; G Ridley 1992; R Macdonald 1993.



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