This vessel was first launched in 1908 from the yard of Friedrich Krupp AG of Kiel under the name of Ypiranga. She was a steel passenger steamship of 4907 net and 8103 gross tons, and dimensions were 448.4’ x 58.3’ x 28.0’. She was powered by twin compound steam engines generating 332nhp each, powering twin shafts and propellors. The Ypiranga had been launched for the Hamburg American Line as a transatlantic liner but was soon sold and came under the management of the Controller of Shipping in London. In 1919 she again changed hands and her name to Assyria, and she remained with that name until 1929 when she transferred to Portuguese ownership and re-named Colonial.
The sad final journey of most ships is to the breaker’s yard to be taken apart piece by piece and returned to the metal plates and girders from which they had once been assembled. After a career with the Anchor Line and a period sailing under Portuguese ownership the Colonial, renamed Bisco 9 for her last voyage, was indeed to be broken up but not without one last adventure to be added to her long history of more than forty years of voyages all over the world.
The last chapter in her story began in Lisbon when she left for the Clyde and the Dalmuir yard of the shipbreaking firm W H Arnott Young & Company. As she entered the outer reaches of the Firth of Clyde on 19 September, 1950, under tow by the tug Turmoil, she was caught in a violent gale with winds gusting to 90 mph. The huge hawsers holding her on course repeatedly snapped like threads as she pitched and heaved in the mountainous seas whipped up by the gale force winds. Four times the hawser broke and four times she was successfully brought under control again but, as the hawser snapped for the fifth time, the crews aboard the tug and the Bisco knew that they were beaten. By now they were close to Ailsa Craig. Campbeltown lifeboat arrived on the scene in answer to the Bisco’s radio distress calls but could only stand by as she was swept north in ever increasing seas. For nine hours she was pushed before the wind, missing the rugged south coast of Arran to be swept into Kilbrannen Sound and north past Campbeltown Loch and Davaar Island.
She finally made landfall between Black Bay and Kildonald Point, some four miles north of Campbeltown. The lifeboat and tug crews could only watch helplessly as she crashed ashore. As soon as she grounded the lifeboat came alongside and fired a line aboard. Before they could rig up a breeches buoy the rocket brigade from Campbeltown also arrived on the scene and quickly set up their own breeches buoy from the beach with which the six crew and Captain Painter were lifted safely ashore. The Bisco was later broken up where she lay finally succumbing to her fate after her last exciting voyage.
The Wreck Today
Despite the almost total salvage of the vessel the site still makes an interesting shallow dive with substantial quantities of discarded material still littering the seabed. The site lies on the north side of Black Bay in position 55°29.079’N, 005°31.080’W (GPS) and is easily located as there are still four large concrete blocks, presumably the remains of the salvage work, among the rocks inshore of the site.
Underwater the seabed drops from a shallow reef some 3 metres deep to a sandy seabed at around 12 metres. The debris from the salvage operation extends around 100 metres along the top and side of the reef with small metal fittings and hundreds of discarded floor tiles scattered among the rocks.