The Dunraven was a cargo ship of 1,613 GRT officially described as an “Iron Screw Steamer-Planked” when she was built at Charles Mitchell and Co. Iron Ship Builders, Low Walker Yard No. 266, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK., for William Milburn of London.
Launched 14 December 1872 and completed the following year, the ship was 79.6 meters in length, 9.8 meters in beam, and 7.3 meters in draught. Propulsion was provided by a combination of square-rigged sails on fore and aft masts, and a 140 PSI 2-cylinder compound inverted engine, built at Humphreys and Tennant, Newcastle, using steam provided by 2 coal-fired boilers for a speed of 8 knots. Crew compliment was normally 25 men. Given the small number of crew, this would indicate that the ship was normally steam-operated, with sails as an auxiliary form of propulsion
After completion of the ship and successful sea trials, the Dunraven served on the Liverpool-Bombay route until the time of her loss.In 06 April 1876 the Dunraven, under the command of Captain Edward Richards Care, departed Bombay, India, with a “valuable general cargo” on the return route to Liverpool. The passage through the Indian Ocean was uneventful and the ship made the port of Aden where coal was taken onboard before proceeding north for Suez.
The ship’s log of 24 April states “weather fine and clear, wind light, water smooth, no sail set, vessel proceeding at full speed of 6 1/2 knots. At 0100 on 25 April, the Second Mate saw land dead ahead of the ship and saw a light 50 minutes later which he took to be the Ashrafi Light in the Straits of Gubal (he later recanted seeing the light at all). The Captain was on the bridge at this time did not question the sighting of land, light, or their identification. The helmsman later testified that he did not see the light.At 0215 the Captain went below, leaving an order to be called in an hour. The Second Mate, during the later Board of Enquiry proceedings, first stated that he contacted the Captain as soon as he lost the light from view. Later in the proceedings, he then changed his testimony to calling the Captain between 0330 and 0340, which was an admission that he did not follow the Captain’s order to be called at 0315.
When Captain Care returned to the bridge at 0340, land was plain to see to the north at a distance of 6 or 7 miles off the starboard bow, at which time Captain Care altered course by 2-points to starboard. Ten minutes later, the lookout reported to the bridge that he had sighted either a buoy or small boat in the water dead-ahead. The Second Mate also saw the object and determined that it was a boat, and reported this to the Captain. Captain Care immediately stopped all engines. However, the ship struck a reef and the forward section of the ship immediately started taking on water. Pumps were immediatley started and attempts to unground the ship using a kedge anchor were unsuccessful.By 0700 in the morning the flooding had reached the ship’s engine room and boilers resulting in a loss of power to the steam pumps. By around noon, the ship’s starboard main deck was underwater and the Captain ordered abandon ship. The ship’s Captain and crew took to the ship’s lifeboats where they waited alongside the ship until around 1600, a local Dhow picked them up. At 1700, the Dunraven finally slipped off the reef and sank to the bottom in 27-30 meters of water at position 27.42.22N/34.07.02E. The ship’s crew was then transferred to the passing Italian steamer “Arabia” and put ashore in Suez where they made their way back to England.
The ensuing Board of Enquiry concerning the loss of the Dunraven determined that the loss of the ship was a result of negligence on the part of the ship’s Captain (Master). Captain Care’s Master certificate was immediately revoked for a 12 month period. However, he was still allowed his First Mate’s ticket.
The Dunraven lies almost completely upside-down on her port side just off the southwest side of Beacon Rock (or Sha’ab Mahmud) in 15-30 meters of water with her bow facing to the northeast. The bow of the ship being the shallowest and the stern the deepest. There is usually a North-South current running here and visibility usually ranges from 10-30 meters depending on weather. You will need a calm day to dive this site properly. Also remember to take a couple of flashlights with you on this dive.
The forward section of the ship is fairly broken up with there being an entry/exit point on the starboard side at about 18-20 meters. The hull is broken in two amidships and this is another of the entry/exit points for penetrations. The other entry/exit point is on the aft starboard side at approximately 28-29 meters. The amidships break is just forward of the Engine Room where the two large boilers are located. Aft of the boilers there is piping, valves, and the main engine and ship’s shaft. The stern, rudder, and propeller, which is missing a blade, are quite spectacular as well. Remains of one of the ship’s masts can still be seen on bottom on the aft starboard side as well. This is a really nice dive for me. Not nearly as crowded as the Thistlegorm and still challenging enough to be interesting.
Lee has been in the marketing industry for the last 20 years and now specializes in teaching marketing techniques to people in the scuba diving industry. He is founder of Dive Media Solutions which, in addition to providing complete marketing, media, communications and IT solutions exclusively for the scuba diving industry, also produces The Scuba News which Lee is the Managing Editor of, along with providing 1-2-1 tutorials with dive centers and diving manufacturers around the world. You can connect with Lee via Twitter by following @mrleetw