The steel steam tanker Brilliant was launched from the Newcastle yard of Armstrong Mitchell and Co Ltd (Yard No 567) on 5th July 1890. She measured 318.5′ x 42.0′ x 29.5′ and her tonnage was 3189 gross, 2811 net. She was powered by a triple expansion steam engine by Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Co Ltd., Wallsend delivering 266 net horse power.
She was built for the Deutch-Amerkanische Petroleum Geselleschaft Rhederi, Hamburg and operate for this company till the outbreak of World War One. At this point she was initially interred and then requisitioned by the Admiralty who turned her over to the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey to operate as an oil carrier bringing essential fuel supplies to Britain and her allies in support of the war effort. She was renamed Llama at this point.
In October 1915 she left New York with a full cargo of gas oil bound for Copenhagen. As she approached British territorial waters she was stopped by the Royal Navy warship HMS Virginia and boarded by an armed inspection squad consisting of one lieutenant and four other seamen who, after reviewing the ship’s paperwork, ordered her to proceed to Kirkwall where she would undergo a full physical inspection. This was standard procedure for all neutral ships passing through British waters in the war years. The captain set a course north of Sule Skerry to approach the Orkneys from the north west. On the night of 29th October she arrived off the entrance to Westray Firth intent of passing through this channel and heading south into Kirkwall. However, for some reason a course was set slightly too far to the north of her intended route and ran aground on Skea Skerry on the south side of Westray in the early hours of the morning of 30th . The crew were in no immediate danger and safely landed in their own boats.
The Llama became a total wreck and the subject of an intense court battle in the US between the insurers and Standard Oil Company. Initially the court held that the insurer was liable as the policy covered losses due to war actions. However this was reversed on appeal as the insurer argued that the loss was in fact due to marine misadventure which was not covered by the policy. However, a further appeal by Standard Oil in 1925 finally settled in favour of the oil company who successfully argued that the ship had been seized by the British authorities and therefore the loss was indeed due to war related activity. The company was awarded substantial damages in reparation for the loss of the ship and the oil cargo.
The wreckage of the Llama lies in water up to 14 metres deep on the south west side of Skea Skerries in approximate position 59° 14.745’N, 002° 59.294’W. Divers, who recovered an unmarked bell from the site, report that the engine and boilers are the most visible part of the wreckage which is otherwise flattened and scattered due to the exposed nature of the site.