The steel steamship Einar Jarl was launched from the yard of A/S Sorlandets Skibs in Fevig, Norway on 8th April 1921. She measured 265.3′ x 42.1′ x 17.9′ and weighed 1858 gross tons, 1901 net tons. Her triple expansion steam engine by Fredrikstad MV generated 188 nhp. She was owned by A/S Det Nordenfjeldske D/S, Trondheim
The final voyage of the Einar Jarl began on the morning of 13th March, 1941 when she set off from the Humber bound for Methil and Loch Ewe. She was in ballast and under the command of Captain Johan Herfjord. She had a crew of 22 men aboard plus 2 British Army soldiers who were to stay aboard till she reached Loch Ewe. At Loch Ewe she was due to join convoy OB299 heading for Halifax, Nova Scotia. This was to be her fourth crossing of the Atlantic of the war but she was not destined to complete the hazardous trip this time.
She arrived in Methil in the afternoon of the 14th where she joined up with coastal convoy EN86A bound for Loch Ewe and Oban. The convoy consisted of 31 ships. Many of the ships, like the Einar Jarl, were due to join Transatlantic convoys heading for America from one of these two key muster points on the Scottish west coast. After a delay due to heavy fog the ships finally set off for Loch Ewe on the 17th but, only a few hours later at around 20:50, as they rounded Fifeness and steamed north on the first leg of their journey, the Einar Jarl was rocked by a huge explosion and fatally damaged and began to list to starboard. One crewman, Greek stoker Anastasios Nicoladakis, was killed or injured in the explosion. He was noted as missing as the crew abandoned ship in the starboard lifeboat. By the time the crew boarded the lifeboat the starboard handrail was under water. The ship had only a few minutes more afloat as they cast off and five minutes later she sank beneath the waves. The crew remained close to the site for 30 minutes more hoping for signs of the stoker but by then it was clear that he had gone down with the ship. An hour later, at about 21:45, the crew were picked up by the British steamship Medway Coast which was part of the same convoy and heading for Aberdeen. The crew were landed at Aberdeen the next day and after a recuperation stay in the town they were taken to Glasgow before returning home.
At the marine enquiry held in Glasgow on 25th March a number of the crew including the captain and the first mate appeared to give evidence on how the ship was lost. Initial views expressed suggested that the ship could have been hit by an aerial torpedo but no reports of aircraft in the area had been made by any of the ships in the convoy. It was therefore concluded that the Einar Jarl had probably hit a mine laid by an unknown vessel. The area was a major target for German mine laying submarines and also heavily protected by British defensive minefields and, although the position of the explosion was not in any known minefields it is likely that a mine drifting loose from a minefield was the cause of the explosion.
The reported position of the incident was 9.75 miles east of Fifeness. This approximate position is close to the position of a large wreck at 56° 18.952’N, 002° 17.296’W (WGS84), first surveyed in 1965 in 50 metres of water. The wreck is reported to be oriented 165°/345°. Initial efforts to identify the wreck suggested it could be the wreck of HMS Rockingham but later dives recognised that the wreck was a single screw merchant steamship and could not be the Rockingham. Despite no known positive evidence to confirm that this wreck is the Einar Jarl it seems likely, based on the position and dimensions of the wreckage, that this is in fact the Einar Jarl. The wreck is 89 metres long and rises 9 metres from the seabed. It is well broken lying on it’s starboard side with single propeller, boiler and engine the most visible features.