The Inverlane was one of seven motor tankers built for the Inver Tankers shipping line in Germany in the late 1930s. It was intended that the tankers would supply a refinery near Dublin, but the refinery was never built. Ironically all seven tankers were later sunk by mines or torpedoes from ships or submarines of the nation where the tankers were built. Inverlane was launched from the Bremen Vulcan yard in Vegesack in 1938. She measured 480.2′ x 63.8′ x 35.7′ and weighed 9141 gross tons and 5494 net tons. Her 8-cylinder diesel engine by Bremer Vulcan delivered 1601 hp.
The Inverlane was lost in the early days of the war when she struck a mine off Tynemouth on 14th December 1939. Three of the crew of forty were killed in the initial explosion which also badly damaged the ship. The surviving crew safely abandoned ship and left the sinking vessel to the mercy of the sea. In fact, she drifted for thirty-six hours covering 26 miles before she was finally to come ashore near Sunderland in Seaburn Bay. The ship was doomed as she broke her back as she came ashore but soon after a decision was taken to refloat part of her to be towed to Scapa Flow as a blockship. The wreck was cut into two pieces, the forepart being removed and taken to South Shields for repair and the stern section was left where she lay.
After the fore section was patched up at Hughes Blacklaw Shipbreaking Yard during July 1940 it was towed north to Scapa Flow. The journey up the east coast of Britain was a difficult one as the huge awkward part of the ship was very difficult to control under tow. On the voyage north the tow line snapped twice and had to be reconnected. In fact, the civilian crew of the tow ship eventually gave up and had to be replaced by naval personnel to complete the task. The Inverlane arrived in Scapa Flow on Christmas Day 1940 where she was initially designated for firefighting practice before she was eventually sunk as a blockship in Burra Sound in May 1944.
The wreck of the Inverlane lies in Burra Sound in position 58°55.565’N, 003°18.783’W (WGS84). Until around 2000 the bow of the ship was very visible at all states of the tide in the middle of the sound and could even be boarded with care. However, the fierce tides that rip through the sound at speeds up to 5 knots eventually caused the wreckage to fall over to starboard and it now only protrudes a few metres from the surface at high tide. The other vessels that were sunk to form the Burra Sound barrage were the SS Dyle, SS Gobernador Bories, SS Ronda, SS Rotherfield, SS Tabarka and SS Urmiston Grange.
The wreck still makes a very interesting dive although the short window of slack water is essential to explore the ship safely. The same fierce tides that have caused the wreck to disintegrate make the ship a very friendly place for encrusting sealife so the ship underwater is covered in brightly coloured anemonae and sponges.