The small coastal steamship Jasper was launched from the yard of Thomas Seath and Co Ltd., Rutherglen on 6th July 1880. She measured 144.8′ x 23.2′ x 10.7′ and weighed 279 gross tons, 157 net tons. She was powered by a 2-cylinder compound steam engine by William King and Co Ltd., Glasgow and worked on Irish Sea routes for her owner William Roberston and Co Ltd, Glasgow as one of the company‘s ‘Gem Line‘ steamships.
The Jasper left Workington for Glasgow with a cargo of steel rails on 11th December 1888. She was under the command of Captain McNicol and had a crew of eleven men. Captain McNicol had made similar voyages many times. However, this voyage was to prove fatal. As they made the short crossing of the Solway Firth she was enveloped in thick fog and, despite Captain McNicol’s familiarity with the area, he apparently lost his bearings and, as a result, ran aground on rocks near the Isle of Whithorn. The impact tore off her rudder and stripped the propeller. She then drifted off and sank in deep water a mile off shore in Portyerrock Bay. Unfortunately her crew disappeared, presumably lost after they took to the ship’s boats. No trace was ever found of the unfortunate men.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Jasper lies in position 54°44.238’N, 004°21.139’W oriented 010°/190° and lies in 16 metres. The shape of the vessel is still recognisable although most of the decking and deck structures have disappeared. Her rear mounted engine (3) and boiler (4) are also still visible and the most prominent element of the wreck. She lies on a flat silty seabed in an area subject to some fairly strong tidal flows at certain states of the tide.
We would like to thank Newton Stewart Sub Aqua Club (BSAC 1853) for kind permission to reproduce their ‘Wreck Tour’ image of the Jasper from their website. This and information on other shipwrecks in the Solway Firth area can be found here https://www.nsdivers.co.uk.