Built for the Baltimore Storage and Lightering Company of London and launched in 1887, the steamship Swansea was launched from the yard of William Gray and Company of Hartlepool (Yard No 322). Her hull was constructed of steel and had dimensions of 315.2′ x 40.2′ x 20.2’ with tonnage of 2816 gross, 1690 net. Powered by a triple expansion steam engine of 274 hp supplied by the Central Marine Engineering Works of Hartlepool. The vessel was sold only a year later and renamed Maine and operated for the Maine Steamship Company until purchased by the Atlantic Steamship Company in 1891.
In 1901 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to a hospital ship. As the First World War approached the Maine, which had spent most of her Admiralty career in the Mediterranean, arrived in Lamlash, Arran in support of a number of warships stationed there.
In June 1914 she sailed from there, via Campbeltown, to pick up patients from the minelaying fleet engaged in manoeuvres in Loch Linnhe. As she steamed into the Firth of Lorne on the 16th she was enveloped in dense fog and as a result she ran aground at around 2am the next morning on the Mull coast close to Frank Lockwood’s Island. Their was no panic aboard as it was obvious that she was in no immediate danger and the crew began an orderly evacuation of the patients. They were taken ashore and housed in tents which had been erected to give them shelter while they awaited rescue. As soon as the fog cleared a number of naval vessels headed for the scene and by mid afternoon six ships were standing by off shore and the evacuation of the patients for transportation to Oban, had begun. At first it was hoped that the Maine could be refloated but, after examination, it was decided that the salvage would be too costly as she was seriously damaged and would sink if she was pulled off, unless extensive repairs were carried out on site. She was then abandoned until she was broken up where she lay after the war.
The Wreck Today
Some remains of the Maine can be seen ashore on the Mull coast behind Frank Lockwood’s Island. The Hydrographic Department have her charted at 56° 18.633’N, 005° 50.335’W. There are reports of scattered wreckage underwater but the authors could not find any signs of this when they dived in this location.