The steamship Urlana was launched for British India Steam Navigation Company from the yard of Barclay Curle and Co Ltd., Glasgow on 8th August 1941. She measured 427.9′ x 57.5′ x 32.1′ and weighed 6852 gross tons, 4004 net tons. Her triple expansion steam engine by Barclay Curle provided 630 hp. She was immediately requisitioned for convoy duty as part of the war effort. A single 12 pounder gun was installed near her stern and a number of Oerlikon 4 machine guns installed on her flanks. Her first trip took her to Colombo then she subsequently completed voyages from Britain to African ports including Freetown, Algiers and Gibraltar.
In May 1943 she began her final round trip voyage to Africa leaving Methil for Liverpool then on to Freetown in Sierra Leone. She then crossed the South Atlantic to pick up a cargo of wool and corned beef in Buenos Aires before heading north along the east coast of America to reach New York where she joined a large convoy of more than fifty ships heading west to Britain. The Urlana’s final destination was London but the plan was to reach the Scottish west coast where she would join another convoy to take her on the next stage of her voyage.
As the convoy headed west across the North Atlantic they were constantly at risk of a U-boat attack but it was not enemy action that would cause the loss of the Urlana. As they reached the Scottish coast and the convoy broke up to head to each ship’s next muster position or port, weather conditions were poor with a heavy swell and limited visibility. From reports of crew member’s following the loss it appears that the captain and first mate were uncertain of their ship’s position when, without warning while they worked to determine their exact position, she ran hard aground. After the captain took stock of their position, aground in an unknown position with a large swell working the ship and with no other ships in the vicinity, he ordered engines ahead to run the ship harder on the rocks and avoid slipping back and sinking in deeper water. It was dark and any attempts to reach shore in the swell and darkness was too dangerous so the crew nervously waited till first light before making their next move. By this time another ship, the Thurland Castle, had answered their distress calls and was standing by offshore. The swell was still too heavy to safely launch the ship’s boats so the one hundred and eight survivors clambered down cargo nets hung over the sides and into the cold water to swim out to the rescue ship’s boats waiting for them. The Urlana broke up soon after she went aground and much of the cargo was washed ashore as storms broke up the ship providing a bounty to the local residents during the restrictions of
The wreck of the Urlana lies in position 57°20.648’N, 006°36.861’W (WGS84) and is very broken, spread over a wide area among rocks, kelp and course white sand in depths around 14 metres. The site is approximately one mile north of McLeod’s Maidens on the west coast of Skye, making the exploration of the wreck both picturesque above and below the surface.