The SS Esbo was a large cargo steamship built in Sunderland by William Pickersgill & Son., and launched in December 1900. Her dimensions were 324.0′ x 47.1′ x 21.7′ and had a net tonnage of 1832 tons. Her name had been changed no fewer than six times before Esbo with both British and foreign owners naming her Malin, Eleni, Genesee, Finland, Condylis and Auristan.
At 5:27am on the morning of 19th October, 1935 the radio at Seaforth Wireless Station crackled into life and a strongly accented voice announced ” Esbo round Selker Rocks; afraid going ashore.” This was the start of a series of events that would eventually lead to the loss of the Finnish steamship off the Ayrshire coast. The Esbo did indeed go ashore on the Cumberland coast later that day despite desperate attempts to save her by casting her anchors but both chains gave way before help could reach her. As the voice on the radio announced at 12:41 that the crew were forced to attempt to save themselves by taking to the lifeboats their situation looked bad. The Piel lifeboat, which was en route to the scene, had been forced to return to her station after being damaged by mountainous seas. Thankfully though, the nine crewmen who did leave the vessel in the lifeboat reached the shore safely and the remaining fifteen men were later saved by the Bootle and Whitehaven lifesaving team.
The Maryport lifeboat had also launched to the casualty and battled through mountainous seas for four hours to reach the wreck, only to find all the crew had got ashore safely. For their efforts the crew were awarded a bronze medal by the Finnish government, which is on display in the Maryport Maritime Museum.
The Esbo had been en route to Finland from Preston but had encountered very heavy seas off the mouth of the River Ribble and hurricane force winds had gradually pushed her off course and ashore. She was aground nearly a mile from the shore and in a very difficult situation. She was purchased by Robert Frazer & Sons Ltd of Newcastle and Workington who intended to re-float her and break her for scrap. Over the next few months a number of attempts were made to refloat the ship but to no avail. By March the following year a decision to scrap her where she lay seemed likely but one last attempt, on 26th March, using more powerful pumps, was made and this time the Steel & Bennie tugs Strongbow and Vanguard succeeded in pulling her off. The ship had been badly damaged during her five months ashore and, after a few rough repairs, it was decided to tow her to Troon to be scrapped.
During the journey north they ran into a strong north easterly gale off the Galloway coast and it was evident that the ship was slowly filling as the pumps were unable to cope with the inflow of water through her damaged hull. By the time they reached Benane Head, south of Girvan, the situation became hopeless when the pumps finally choked with debris. The crew were taken off and the tow rope cut. Almost immediately the bow rose in the air, revealing a large hole, and she sank stern first about two miles from the shore and only thirty miles from her destination.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Esbo lies on a sandy seabed in position 55° 10.106’N, 05° 04.137’W (GPS). She has clearly been well stripped of fittings during her five months ashore and is well broken lying in general depths of 28 metres. The bow is the highest part of the wreck rising 8 metres from the seabed.
Esbo Dive slideshow
This is a large wreck with plenty to explore. Her huge engines midships, which have toppled on their side as the wreck disintegrates, are particularly impressive. Surprisingly, visibility is often poor due to the deep silt covering the wreck but it still makes an interesting dive. The wreck is a popular site for local sea anglers making fishing line the most likely hazard although the site is also very exposed to winds from any direction.