The graceful full rigged sailing ship Clan Mackenzie was built for Thomas Dunlop and Son of Glasgow, owners of the famous Clan Shipping Line and launched from the yard of Robert Duncan and Co Ltd, Port Glasgow on the 30th November 1882.
She measured 259.5′ x 38.2′ x 23.1′ and weighed 1684 gross tons, 1597 net tons. She was reported to be the fastest sailing ship in the Clan Line fleet and sailed successfully for them until she was sold for £4500 to Norwegian owners, Karl Sigurd and Martin Bruusgaard of Drammen in 1909 and renamed Majorka. With the outbreak of the First World War her frequent Transatlantic voyages became more dangerous as German U-boats prowled the shipping lanes off the west coast of Scotland.
The Majorka departed from London heading for Delaware on 7th July, 1917, in ballast, where she was to pick up her latest cargo of war goods for Britain. After a voyage up the east cast of Scotland, interrupted by a violent NW storm she finally passed through the Pentland Firth with favourable easterly winds and tides on the morning of 14th August passing Cape Wrath at 8pm that day. As she turned south west when she was off Cape Wrath the captain did not know that they were sailing straight towards mine barrage 137 laid days earlier by the UE1 class mine laying submarine U-71 under the command of Kapitanleutnant Walter Gude.
The area was a favourite site for the German mine laying submarines targeting both cargo ships sailing through the Minch and British warships leaving the base at Scapa Flow and heading for the west coast or the open Atlantic. The Majorka was rocked by a huge explosion on her port side as she collided with one of the German mines. Seconds later a second explosion rocked the ship, downing her mainmast and splitting the ship in two pieces midships. She sank within a minute of the first explosion barely giving the crew time to launch the boats. Most of them were thrown into the water although the port lifeboat was freed, damaged and waterlogged, allowing the men in her to rescue a few of their crewmates now struggling amid the wreckage. Eleven crewmen survived and were picked up by a British tug that sped to the scene alerted by the huge explosions. Ten of the crew, including the captain were lost. The report of the Norwegian crew that survived appears to indicate they were shot at by an unseen vessel but German U-boat records don’t place a U-boat in the area and report the loss due to mines laid by U-71. The two huge explosions that sunk the ship would also indicate the most likely cause was the ship had hit two mines in close succession.
The broken wreckage of Majorka was discovered in 1998 in position 58°34.058’N, 005°13.826’W (WGS84) and identified by the recovery of a ship’s bell inscribed Clan Mackenzie. The wreckage is spread over a wide area and rises only 2 metres from the flat seabed in depths of approximately 50 metres.