The steel steamship Cotovia was launched from the West Hartlepool yard of the Irvine Shipbuilding and Drydock Co Ltd (Yard No 506) on 7th September 1911. She measured 370.0′ x 50.2′ x 24.9′ and her tonnage was 4020 gross tons, 2627 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Richardson Westgarth and Co Ltd., Hartlepool delivering 375 net horse power. She was ordered by the Frumentum Steamship Co Ltd., London.
On 19th July 1917 the German mine laying U-boat UC-49 under the command of Kapitanlieutnant Karl Petri reached the Orkney area on her latest patrol. That day she laid eight mines in three separate areas between Deerness and Auskerry. This area was a key target area for the German Kreigsmarine mine laying efforts as it was the route into and out of the important British base at Kirkwall. Records show that the area was subject to no less than twenty barrages of mines containing over eighty individual mines in the months from February to September 1917 alone. After the mines were laid Petri continued his sortie westwards and was to sink three more vessels to the north west on that patrol – SS Otway off the But of Lewis, SS Blake 30 miles north of Cape Wrath and the barque Dea, west of Shetland, before returning to base in Germany.
Meanwhile Cotovia had departed from Archangel with a cargo of flax bound for Dundee under the command of Captain C E Hawkins. On 22nd July 1917 she reached the outer Stronsay Firth, probably in the area to undergo an inspection by British authorities from the base in Kirkwall who regularly stopped and searched passing shipping in the area to check papers and cargo manifests for wartime contraband. She collided with one of the German mines laid only three days earlier. Thankfully the crew were able to successfully launch the ship’s boats and disemark safely before Cotovia sank.
The wreck of Cotovia lies in position 58° 58.165’N, 002° 38.197’W. The well broken wreck, which is roughly oriented 110/290 degress, lies in 40 metres with a lest depth clearance of 37 metres. Diver reports indicate that the wreckage is well flattened with the engines and boiler, the larger visible features. Much of the wreckage appears to be buried below the sandy seabed but there is till substantial wreckage visible spreading over an area more than 50 metres in length.
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