The steel motor fishing vessel Lunokhods-1 was launched from the Chernomorsky Shipyard, Nikolayev, USSR (Yard No 323) in 1971. She measured 83.9m x 14.03m x 10.01m and her tonnage was 2774 gross tons. Powered by a single cylinder diesel engine delivering 2000 registered horse power. She was built for Zapryba USSR and was sold to the Leipaja Ocean Fishing Fleet, Latvia in 1991.
Lunohods-1 arrived in Shetland on 7th November 1993 on her annual visit to the island in support of a fleet of trawlers operating in the nearby fishing grounds. Only two days later, on November 9th a force 10 gale swept over the islands creating a huge swell. The terrible weather caused the Lunohods-1 to drag her anchor and she was driven around 2:30am just south of Kirkabister Ness Lighthouse. With the ship working on the rocks it only took about an hour for her hull to puncture and she began to settle by the bow. Her skipper had no alternative but to order the men under his command to abandon ship. Thankfully the ship’s distress calls had been picked up by the local coastguard and Lerwick lifeboat and RAF rescue helicopters were quickly on the scene. 56 men were lifted off by helicopter. Three men were picked up from a liferaft by the lifeboat and one man managed to scramble ashore from a second liferaft. Thankfully, despite the atrocious weather, no-one lost their life.
We would like to thank Paul Webster for allowing us to reproduce his underwater photographs of the wreck.