The iron steamship Countess of Aberdeen was launched from the yard of the Barrow Shipbuilding Co Ltd. (Yard No 52) on 6th February 1878. She measured 200.1′ x 26.8′ x 13.9′ and her tonnage was 580 gross tons, 291 net tons. She was powered by an inverting surface condensing compound steam engine by Barrow Shipbuilding delivering 180 horse power. Built for the Aberdeen, Newcastle and Hull Steamship Co Ltd., Aberdeen was was registered in Aberdeen and operated between the North Sea ports on the east coast of Britain and north to Orkney and Shetland.
She left Hull at 1:50am on 15th April, 1894 on her regular route bound for her home port. She was under the command of William Joss with a crew of eighteen and twelve passengers aboard. She carried a general cargo of 240 tons. By 6:30am she was abreast of Flamborough Lighthouse. At this point there was a disagreement between the master and the second mate about how far they were offshore but surprisingly no further checks were made to confirm their position and the steamship continued on her course northwards. A number of small adjustments were made as they continued to head along the Scottish coastline but these adjustments were to prove inadequate to compensate for the inshore set of the flood tide which was pushing her inexorably towards the Kincardine coastline. In the afternoon the visibility began to deteriorate as they encountered some fog and by 3pm, with visibility reduced to less than half a mile, the master stationed a lookout on the forecastle head. The fog became patchy as they proceeded but again, at about 9:30pm, thickened prompting Captain Joss to adjust his course slightly to the east. He estimated he was off Stonehaven and 12 to 14 miles offshore but even then adjusted his course half a point to the east as a further precaution. However, he did not reduce speed and continued on his chosen course at full speed. At 10:30pm the ship suddenly ran hard aground near Cove coastguard Station and took on a list to starboard.
A lifeboat was immediately lowered but a jammed line caused it to upset and filled as it landed in the water and started to drift away from the stranded ship. The first mate and a fireman bravely jumped into the sea to recover it and bring it alongside to take off the passengers. Unfortunately, as the passengers and crew watched the two men struggling with the lifeboat in the water, the ship took a further lurch to port and the female steward fell overboard and was lost. By this time the coastguard had raised the alarm and a number of local men arrived on the scene in their boats and successfully took off the remaining passengers and crew. As they reached the shore they looked back to see smoke billowing from the cabin skylight and portholes. The fire grew in intensity and in fact burned for two days before it went out. The Countess of Aberdeen was a total wreck. The subsequent enquiry held the master responsible for the loss of his ship as he had a number of opportunities to verify the position of his ship and to slow her speed and failed to do so. His master’s certificate was suspended for fifteen months.