The steel steamship Lady Charlotte was launched from the yard of Campbeltown Shipbuilding Co Ltd. (Yard No 103) on 9th July 1917. She measured 348.5′ x 49.9′ x 23.6′ 3527 gross tons, 2208 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Rankin and Blackmore, Greenock delivering 327 net horse power.
Multiple owners, including at various times Greek, German, Polish and Norwegian governments and various private owners, and multiple name changes (Ioannis Carras, Spyridon I, Komet, Ekenes, Spyridon II) followed before she was acquired by Cia de Nav Irini, Panama City in 1948 who named her Bellavista. Her career for this final owner was to be a short one.
On 29th July 1948 Bellavista was en route from Narvik, Norway to Ardrossan with a cargo of 6299 tons of iron ore. She had a crew of thirty one men aboard. After crossing the North Sea without incident, as they approached the Orkneys, presumably intending to pass between Fair Isle and Papa Westray, they were enveloped in a thick fog. The first indication of a problem was a radio message picked up by Wick Radio at 09:04am ‘Ashore east side of Mull Head, Papa Westray, Orkney. Request immediate assistance’ The message was also picked up by salvage tug Metinda II which was moored in Kirkwall and her skipper replied she was making preparations to head to the scene. The captain of Bellasvista also messaged the London agents of the owners ‘Ashore north end of Papa Westray on hard rock in exposed position to any wind from north to south east. Fog has now cleared, weather very good. Salvage tug Metinda II is leaving Kirkwall at 4:00pm. Vessel went aground at low water.’ She was firmly wedged in a rocky gulley eighty yards from the shore at Fowl Craig.
Later that day both salvage tugs Metinda II and Metinda III were standing by the stranded ship ready to assist in jettisoning part of the cargo in an attempt to lighten her enough to pull her off. The Stromness lifeboat, which had also arrived to take the crew off if needed, headed back to her base as the crew were in no immediate danger and planned to stay aboard to assist in efforts to save her. The work to refloat the Bellasvista proceeded well for the next few days but, despite multiple attempts to pull her off she remained hard aground. Then, on 2nd August the weather deteriorated, and, with waves now pounding the ship, the crew were forced to abandon her. Twenty of the crew and fourteen of the members of the salvage crew were initially able to disembark in the ship’s as the weather worsened. The last eleven crew members were taken off by breeches buoy from one of the tugs. Extracts from Lloyd’s casualty reports are reproduced below.