The steel cargo steamship Shuna was built to the order of the Scandanavian Shipping Company under the management of Glen & Company of Glasgow. She had been built by John Crown & Sons Ltd., at Sunderland (Yard No 157) and completed in September 1915. Her dimensions were 250.0′ x 37.3′ x 17.2’, with a tonnage of 1494gt / 912nt. The ship was powered by a triple expansion steam engine built by the North Eastern Marine Engineering Co. Ltd., of Sunderland. The vessel changed owners in 1928 when it was bought by the Clydesdale Shipowners Co. Ltd but remained with the same ship managers. The ships official number was 137802.
October 1936, like many other winter months in the Western Isles, brought a series of gales that created havoc with the lives of many islanders and brought communications to a halt. The steamship Shuna became the victim of one of these gales when she went aground near Eilean a’Chuirn on October 17th. As she clung to the rocks her distress calls went unheard in the chaos on the island. Her luck was to change as a Northern and Scottish Airways flight heading for Islay flew over her and she was spotted by the plane’s pilot, Captain J.A. Harkins. At first Captain Harkins thought nothing much about it but, on landing, he was astonished to hear that no one on the island knew about the wreck and that, as a result, nothing was being done to mount a rescue. The telephone lines on the island were down due to the storm and it was only once he was airborne again that a radio message could be relayed via Renfrew to Port Askaig lifeboat which immediately launched and headed for the grounded ship.
When the lifeboat reached the site they could see that there was little they could do for the ship but, as the weather had calmed somewhat, the crew were in no immediate danger. They took off and landed six of the twenty crewmen and returned to the wreck to stand by. An inspection by a salvage crew on the 20th revealed the Shuna had driven right over a shallow reef and was now aground amidships with her forward end awash and, although the remainder of the ship was undamaged, the buckled hull plating under the bridge made it clear that successful salvage was impossible. The remaining crew were taken off and the Shuna was left to her fate as the weather closed in once again. On the 28th it was reported that she had parted amidships and both ends had sunk on either side of the rock.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Shuna lies where she sank in position 55° 39.142’N, 006° 02.431’W (GPS) which is on a small reef lying south of Ceann nan Sgeirean. The major portion of the wreckage lies in 12 – 15 metres on the seaward side of the reef but there is also wreckage in shallower water including her boiler, which sits on top of the reef in around 4 metres. Although well broken due to the attentions of various salvage teams there is still a lot of wreckage to be explored. The site is somewhat exposed to winds from the south and east but, like all of the sites on this part of the Islay coast, is sheltered from the worst of the swell and tides affecting the rest of the island.