The steel steamship Sierra Nevada was launched from the Southwick yard of W Pickersgill and Sons Ltd (Yard No 200) on 20th July 1920. She measured 380.2′ x 52.3′ x 24.2′ and her tonnage was 4178 gross tons, 2559 net tons. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Richardson Westgarth and Co Ltd., Sunderland delivering 330 net horse power.
She was ordered by Lorentz W Hansens Rederi A/S, Bergen. The following year the company changed the ship’s name to Hastings County.
On Sunday 13th June 1926 she was en route from Hamburg bound for Montreal with a general cargo when she ran aground in thick fog near the lighthouse on Auskerry at around 10.30pm. Her distress signals were picked up by Wick Radio who relayed the message to the Stromness lifeboat station. The crew was quickly assembled, the boat launched and she reached the stranded steamer around 4:30am the following morning. The message from the Hastings County indicated that the engine room and boiler room were filling quickly but, due to the calm weather, the crew consisting of forty men, were in no immediate danger. The lifeboat took off thirty one of the crew leaving the captain and nine men aboard hoping that the ship could be refloated.
The owners dispatched the salvage steamship Jason from Bergen on the 14th and by midnight on the 16th she arrived at the scene. An inspection by divers revealed significant damage to the hull with the ship resting heavily on the rocks. Local vessels from Stromness immediately began to remove the valuable cargo and a second salvage steamer the Achilles was dispatched form Bergen. The work to remove the cargo went well but the chances to refloat the ship reduced day by day as the swell worked the vessel on the rocks inflicting further damage to the already damaged hull. Over subsequent weeks the two thirds of the cargo was successfully removed but the ship herself was doomed and became a total wreck. On July 21st she was officially condemned. The wreck was sold for breaking up but the story for the Hastings County was not quite over because, on 28th September, with salvage work ongoing a fire broke out in the after hold of the wreck which burned for some time before extinguishing. Finally, on October 26th, in a strong westerly gale the hull broke in two and the forward section floated off and sank in deep water.
There is wreckage from the Hastings County ashore in position 59° 01.450’N, 002° 34.399’W and presumably some wreckage from the forward section lies underwater close by.