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Hms Port Napier: Sron An Tairbh, Loch Alsh

Minelayer (20th Century)

Site Name Hms Port Napier: Sron An Tairbh, Loch Alsh

Classification Minelayer (20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Kyle Of Lochalsh; Rudha Ard Tresnish; Skye; Bo Stron An Tairbh; Loch Na Beiste; Hms Port Napier

Canmore ID 101938

Site Number NG72NE 8006

NGR NG 77746 25488

Datum WGS84 - Lat/Long

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/101938

Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2024.

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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NG72NE 8006 7774 2549

N57 15.9667 W5 41.1833

NLO: Sron an Tairbh [name: NG 780 253]

Loch Alsh [name centred NG 80 25]

Kyle Akin [name centred NG 758 268]

Skye [name centred NG 45 35].

Formerly entered as NG72NE 8447, and classified as Mine Transport Vessel.

HMS PORT NAPIER. The wreck lies in 21 metres of water but parts uncover at low water. A vertical spar with triangular topmark marks the position. Visibility averages 9 metres. Some mines are thought to be still in the wreck. The bow and stern are largely intact but amidships is jumbled. She lies on her starboard side.

Source: Butland & Siedlecki, BSAC Wreck Register 1987.

Quality of fix = CR

Horizontal Datum = OGB

General water depth = 20

Orientation of keel/wreck = NW/SE

Circumstances of Loss Details

-----------------------------

The auxilliary minelayer HMS PORT NAPIER sank following a fire and running aground in Loch Alsh.

Surveying Details

-----------------------------

7 October 1954. A beacon has been established at a position bearing 109 degrees, 580 metres from Rudha Ard Tresnish trig mark, or bearing 111.5 degrees and 2186 metres from the Kyle Akin light.

Report by Flag Officer, Scotland.

7 November 1968. A Royal Naval bomb and mine disposal team have salvaged 600 mines and 4000 rounds of ammunition from the wreck. The vessel is lying on her side and there is still a possibility of mines remaining underneath.

Report by War Risk Insurance Department, Board of Trade.

13 January 1969. The Department of Contracts (Navy) will not sell the vessel due to the possible danger from mines/explosives. Some doubt remains as to exact number of mines onboard when the vessel sank.

8 December 1969. The wreck was dived upon. Several parts of the superstructure were found to be lying south of the wreck. The deck of the wreck is littered with loose cables.

Report by Nottingham Mines Research and Exploration Group, 1 December 1969.

8 July 1971. The wreck is now reported at 57 15 58N, 005 41 11W - the bow is on a bearing of 210 degrees and 1871 metres from the Donald Murchinson Memorial. The stern is on a bearing of 206 degrees and 1877 metres from Donald Murchinson's Monument. The position of the navigation beacon is 109.5 degrees and 1554 metres from Rudha Ard Tresnish triangulation mark.

Report by HMS HECLA, 18 February 1970.

10 November 1975. The position of 57 15 58N, 005 41 11W is confirmed. The wreck lies in a general depth of 18.3 metres and dries to 2.4 to 3 metres. The wreck is in one piece, lying on its side, and still has ammunition onboard.

Report by R R Webb, 12 October 1975.

5 April 1982. The wreck is largely intact, lying on its starboard side. Some port side plating has been blown off, otherwise it is structurally safe.

Source: BSAC Wreck Register, vol 2.

22 November 1983. The beacon marking the wreck is missing.

Report by HMS LONDONDERRY.

30 September 1985. An enquiry has been received from J S Stoddart, Contract Services, Hartlepool, about the possible purchase and salvage of wreck.

12 October 1990. The vessel lies in 20 metres on her side. The propellers have been removed by an unauthorised salvor. The naval salvage team of HMS BARGLOW removed 526 mines in 1955/6 and detonated the remaining 16 in situ. The wreck is popular with sport divers. Application have been made for permission to remove the propellor shafts, wire cable from the deck and other fittings.

Report by Disposal Sales (Contracts 3) enclosing a letter from North East Divers, dated 1 May 1990.

Hydrographic Office, 1995.

(Classified as minelayer, with cargo of mines: date of loss cited as 27 November 1940). HMS Port Napier: this vessel foundered [sic.] in Loch Alsh. Registration: London.

(Location of loss cited as N57 15.97 W5 41.18).

I G Whittaker 1998.

Material reported under RoW amnesty (2001):

A251 43 brass fittings (including brass log, name/identification plates, gauges and light fittngs) and 2 beer bottles (found on seabed, possibly from wreck)

A299 1 ring bolt (found on seabed).

NMRS, MS/829/33.

Material reported under RoW amnesty (2001):

A1078 1 brass plaque: from seabed

A1170 2 shellcases, 2 'mechanisms from shellheads': from seabed

A1687 1 'bit deck planking': from seabed

A1954 1 porthole: from seabed

A3062 1 brass tap

A3227 2 'cones' (1 brass, 1 ?zinc), 1 button: from seabed

A3347 1 fragment of mug: from seabed

A3376 1 plug, 1 beer bottle and contents: from seabed

A3646 1 switch housing, 2 bearings, 2 switches, 5 rail locking bolts (or parts): from seabed

A3709 1 piece broken crockery: from seabed

A3957 1 tile: from seabed.

NMRS, MS/829/35.

This ship was under construction for the Port Line when she was requisitioned (apparently under her own intended name) for naval service, and converted for defensive minelaying. Her building yard is not cited in any of the available accounts but ships of the Port Line were characteristically designed for above-average speeds. The ship was of 9600 tons gross and measured 498 ft (152m) in length by 68 ft (20.7m) in beam and 41ft 6ins (12.7m) depth to the upper or main deck. Conversion for minelaying comprised the fitting of mine rails along the main deck, further mines being stored beneath planks in the holds.

While loading mines at Kyle of Lochalsh (presumably at the Railway Pier, NG72NE 9) the ship caught fire, and was towed out into the loch before exploding: some debris was thrown ashore. The ship was reported to be carrying 550 mines and 6000 shells for her ten anti-aircraft guns at the time of sinking. The mines themselves did not catch fire, and were recovered in 1955, most of the port side plating being removed to allow their removal. 4000 unexploded shells are also said to have been recovered.

Apart from the lost plating, the wreck (including the wooden decking) is substantially intact and lies on her starboard side, the port side being visible above water at most states of the tide. The rich assemblage of marine life includes sugar kelp (along the sunlit port side), anemones and tunicates. The fittings recognisable forward include anchor cables, a pair of 4-inch guns (on the foredeck), mast and hatches. Most of the superstructure remains intact but the funnel has collapsed forward. A capstan and possible further gun mounting survive aft, while a pile of mine sinkers survives off the starboard side.

The HO chart indicates the wreck about 1.2 nm (2.2 km) SE of Kyle of Lochalsh, and in a charted depth of about 12m immediately S of the projecting underwater point of Bo Stron an Tairbh, near the mouth of Loch na Beiste. The seabed around is evidently variable.

[Location map: Macdonald 1993, 66].

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 4 November 2002.

R Macdonald 1993; R and B Larn 1998; Diver 2000b.

HO chart no. 2540 (1976, updated to 1992).

Plans (but not photographs) of this vessel are held in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Information from Ms G Fabri (NMM), 7 November 2003.

Activities

Reference (2011)

Whittaker ID : 212

Name : HMS PORT NAPIER

Latitude : 571558

Longitude : 54111

Registration : LONDON

Type : MINELAYER

Position : Exact Position

Loss Day : 27

Loss Month : 11

Loss Year : 1940

Comment : Foundered in Loch Alsh.

Cargo : MINES

Reference (19 April 2012)

UKHO Identifier : 001968

Feature Class : Wreck

Wreck Category : Wreck showing any portion of hull or superstructure

State : LIVE

Classification : Unclassified

Position (Lat/long) : 57.26585,-5.68753

Horizontal Datum : ETRS 1989

WGS84 Position (Lat/long) : 57.26585,-5.68753

WGS84 Origin : Block Shift

Previous Position : 57.26612,-5.68638

Position Method : Compass Bearing and Radar Range

Position Quality : Precisely known

Depth Quality : Depth unknown

Water Depth : 18

Water Level Effect : Covers and uncovers

Vertical Datum : Mean Low Water Springs

Name : HMS PORT NAPIER

Type : AUX MINELAYER

Flag : BRITISH

Length : 109.7

Beam : 21.0

Orientation : 135.0

Tonnage : 9600

Tonnage Type : Gross

Cargo : MINES

Date Sunk : 27/11/1940

Bottom Texture : Sand

Debris Field : PARTS OF SUPERSTRUCTURE LIE TO S OF WK

Contact Description : Entire wreck

Original Sensor : Reported Sinking

Last Sensor : Diver Sighting

Original Detection Year : 1940

Last Detection Year : 2006

Original Source : Other

Last Source : Divers

Circumstances of Loss : **MERCHANT VESSEL CONVERTED FOR MINE-LAYING. SANK FOLLOWING A FIRE WHILE LOADING MINES, AND RUNNING AGROUND IN LOCH ALSH. (DIVER MAGAZINE, JUL'06)

Surveying Details : **H01135/40 4.1.41 STF IN 571559N, 054111W. (ADMIRALTY). - FNM 3047/40.

**H01135/40 26.6.53 NOW CHARTED AS DWP, LYING NW/SE. (AUTHORITY NOT STATED). NE 2251.

**H01135/40 7.10.54 BEACON ESTABLISHED 109DEG, 8.13C FROM RUDHA ARD TRESNISH TRIG MARK, OR 111.5DEG, 11.8C FROM KYLE AKIN LT. (FLAG OFFICER, SCOTLAND). - NM 2181/54.

**7.11.68 RN BOMB & MINE DISPOSAL TEAM HAVE SALVAGED 600 MINES AND 4000 ROUNDS AMMUNITION FROM WK. VESSEL LYING ON HER SIDE AND THERE IS STILL A POSSIBILITY OF MINES REMAINING UNDERNEATH. (WAR RISK INSURANCE, BOT, TELECON REFERRING TO LETTER, NO.268/2 TO COMCLYDE).

**13.1.69 D OF C (N) WILL NOT SELL VESSEL DUE POSSIBLE DANGER FROM MINES/EXPLOSIVES. SOME DOUBT REMAINS AS TO EXACT NUMBER OF MINES ONBOARD WHEN VESSEL SANK. (N/CP85.56668/68).

**6.5.69 BEACON NOT OBSERVED ON AIR PHOTOGRAPH OF WK. (PHOTOGRAMMETRY).

**8.12.69 DIVED ON. SEVERAL PARTS OF THE SUPERSTRUCTURE FOUND LYING SOUTH OF THE WK. THE DECK OF THE WK IS LITTERED WITH LOOSE CABLES. (NOTTINGHAM MINES RESEARCH AND EXPLORATION GROUP, 1.12.69).

**H2877/70 8.7.71 WK POSN NOW 571558N, 054111W. BOW, 210DEG, 6140FT, AND STERN, 206DEG, 6160FT, FROM DONALD MURCHINSON'S MONUMENT. POSITION OF BEACON IS 109.5DEG, 5100FT FROM RUDHA ARD TRESNISH TRIANGULATION MARK. (HMS HECLA, REPORT OF SURVEY DTD 18.2.70).

**H1288/75 10.11.75 POSN 571558N, 054111W CONFIRMED. WK LIES IN GEN DEPTH OF 60FT AND DRIES 8-10FT. IT IS IN ONE PIECE, LYING ON ITS SIDE, AND STILL HAS AMMUNITION ONBOARD. (R R WEBB, 12.10.75). NC 2540.

**5.4.82 LARGELY INTACT, LYING ON STBD SIDE. SOME PORT SIDE PLATING BLOWN OFF, OTHERWISE STRUCTURALLY SAFE. (BSAC WK REGISTER, VOL II).

**H4458/80 22.11.83 BN MARKING WK IS MISSING. (HMS LONDONDERRY, HN 3/83). - NM 3165/83.

**HH100/351/03 12.10.90 LIES IN 20MTRS ON HER SIDE. PROPELLERS HAVE BEEN REMOVED BY AN UNAUTHORISED SALVOR. NAVAL SALVAGE TEAM IN HMS BARGLOW REMOVED 526 MINES IN 1955/6 AND DETONATED THE REMAINING 16 IN SITU. WK IS POPULAR WITH SPORT DIVERS. APPLICATION MADE FOR PERMISSION TO REMOVE PROP. SHAFTS, WIRE CABLE FROM DECK AND OTHER FITTINGS. (DISPOSAL SALES (CONTRACTS 3) MEMO, 2.10.90 AND ENCLOSED LETTER FROM NORTH EAST DIVERS, 1.5.90). NCA.

**HH272/610/04 DELETE E AND W CARDINAL LT BUOYS. (HMSML GLEANER). - NM 2390/95.

POSITIONS BELOW THIS POINT ARE IN DEGREES, MINUTES AND DECIMALS OF A MINUTE

**30.9.99 WK LIES ON HER SIDE WITH BOWS TOWARDS THE SHORE. LARGELY INTACT. DECK PLANKING STILL IN PLACE AS ARE MANY GUNS. (DIVER MAGAZINE, SEP '99). NCA.

**1.2.00 INTACT AND UPRIGHT MINE ANCHOR TROLLEY LIES ON SEABED OFF THE STERN OF WK. WRECKAGE VISIBLE CLEAR OF THE SURFACE AT ALL BUT HIGH TIDE. STATED TO BE MARKED BY E & W CARD BUOYS. DIAGRAMS AND PHOTOS. (DIVER MAGAZINE FEB'2000). AMEND TO STP. BR STD.

**HH272/610/06 3.2.00 CONFIMED THAT BUOYS DO NOT EXIST. (HM OFFICE, KYLE OF LOCHALSH). NCA.

**25.7.06 LIES ON STARBOARD SIDE ON SANDY SEABED. BOW, RAILINGS & GUN-TURRETS COVERED IN MARINE LIFE. SHALLOWER PARTS OF WRECK SUCH AS INTACT MASTS ARE COLONISED BY KELP. (DIVER MAGAZINE JUL '06)

**6.10.07 EUT POSN: 5715.951N, 0541.252W. NE 2540.

Acoustic Survey (23 April 2019)

EXAMINED 23.4.19 IN 5715.937N, 0541.196W [WGD]. Least M/B depth -2.62 metres IN gen depth 14metres. Length 163.9metres, width 40.4metres, HT 13metres. Orientation 305/125 DEGS. (MERITAITO, HI 1568). Intact lying on Starboard side. Some scattered debris to the south. Amend to area ST dries 2.7metres.

Information from UK Hydrographic Office Wrecks Database. Contains public sector information, licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0

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