The steel barque Marco Polo was launched from the yard of Grangemouth Dock Co Ltd (Yard No 162) on 29th March 1892. She measured 248.2′ x 38.4′ x 22.0′ and her tonnage was 1620 gross tons, 1485 net tons.
Ordered by Christian M Matzen of Tyskland she was subsequently sold to August Bolten and William Millers Nachfolger also of Tyksland in April 1905. Four years later she was purchased by A Bech and Company of Tvedstrand under the company name of A/S Marco Polo. Finally she was purchased by Lars Frerikcsen (Skibs A/S Marco Polo) in September 1915.
On 6th December 1915 the Marco Polo was en route from Sweden to Melbourne with a cargo of dressed timber under the command of Captain Tonnesen with a crew of nineteen men aboard. She had been at sea for twenty four days when, as she approached Orkney, she was enveloped in a dense fog. Realising that he was unsure of his position Captain Tonnesen decided to anchor but, despite letting out 125 fathoms of anchor chain the ship failed to hold. She was now in a dangerous situation drifting gradually towards the Stronsay shoreline. A distress call was answered by the Stronsay lifeboat which arrived on the scene as the barque went ashore on Jack‘s Reef off Huip Ness. The lifeboat quickly took off the crew except for Captain Tonnesen and four of the crew who remained aboard hoping to refloat the ship. However, a few hours later the foremast went over the side quickly followed by the mainmast and, with the ship obviously lost and the remaining men were taken off by the lifeboat and transferred to Kirkwall. The Marco Polo was later refloated and towed away to be beached and broken up. Her cargo was removed and sold at auction.
We would like to thank Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Heritage & Education Centre for allowing us to reproduce documents from their archive in this article.