The iron paddle steamer Prince Consort was launched from the Govan yard (Yard No 37) of J and G Thomson on 2nd January 1858 for the Aberdeen, Leith and Clyde Steam Navigation Co Ltd and registered in Aberdeen. She measured 222.9′ x 24.0′ x 13.3′ and her tonnage was 623 gross tons, 392 net tons and was powered by a steam engine by J and G Thomson delivering 300 rhp.
This powerful engine made her a fast and popular vessel mainly working the east coast routes of the Scottish mainland and Northern Isles.
She was to have a short but eventful career. On 11th March 1863 she left Granton in the Firth of Forth at 7am bound for Aberdeen, Wick and Thurso. The weather en route was rough but she made steady progress until she reached Aberdeen Bay around 5pm that day. A strong wind was blowing from the south and, with a strong ebbing tide at the harbour bar, navigation of the entrance was extremely difficult but, with two other steamers Queen and Times safely negotiating the entrance the captain of the Prince Consort followed them in. However, a huge wave struck the Prince Consort side on at the very moment she crossed the bar and she as thrown against the stone platform that support the end of the pier. With the fast ebbing tide she quickly sat down on the rock broadside to the pier grinding heavily with each consecutive wave. A lifesaving crew with Manby apparatus arrived on the scene quickly and, thankfully passengers and crew were soon safely pulled onto the pier. At 4am the next morning the continual pounding finally took it’s toll and the Prince Consort broke in two behind the engine room. However, this was not to be the end of career as the two sections were later salved and she was successfully repaired and re-entered service.
Only four years later she was to run aground again but, this time, she was not be so lucky. On this occasion she departed Granton at 7pm on the evening of 10th May 1867 under the command of Captain Robert Parrot. He had a crew of 31 men under his command and 73 passengers aboard. As the ship steamed on through the night various course adjustments were made from off the Forth north past Bell Rock . Throughout the night she steamed north at full speed in ever thickening fog with numerous stops to sound depth and attempt to verify the position of the ship. At 4:30am the latest sounding reported to Captain Parrot was 36 fathoms. He slowed speed to half speed and continued on his course. Only thirty minutes later, around 5am, she ran aground without warning coming to a shuddering halt throwing passengers, most of whom were still in their berths, and crew into disarray. Thankfully the sea was relatively calm and the passengers and crew were safely taken ashore in the ship’s boats. She had come ashore on Alten Rocks north of Cove.
The subsequent enquiry focussed on the precautions taken by the captain and crew to verify their position in the poor visibility throughout the night. The enquiry concluded that due precautions had been taken but that the final depth sounding had been in error and she as in fact by that time in water, it transpired that the sounding lead had lost some 20 metres of line on a previous sounding and, although the mate who took the sounding was aware of the previous incident he failed to make the necessary adjustment when reporting the final sounding to the captain. The captain was therefore cleared of any wrong doing resulting in the loss of his ship.
An unconfirmed report suggests there is some scattered unidentifiable wreckage in approximate position 57° 06.737’N, 002° 03.438’W which is likely the remains of the Prince Consort which was clearly subject to substantial salvage at some point after her loss.