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The Zealot was a “spar decked double skinned iron hull screw steamship” of 1,328 GRT originally named the Helme Park at John Readhead and Company (Yard No. 91), South Shield, UK, for William Wright, an owner of numerous other merchant vessels. The ship was launched on 30 January 1873 with a length of 243 feet. Propulsion was provided by a compound steam engine which generated 120 hp delivered to a single screw for a top speed of 12 knots.

The Helme Park’s first Master, Captain H. Brehan, sailed her for the first year following her launching when William Wright sold the ship to Glynn & Company, Liverpool, UK, and was renamed Zealot.


The Final voyage of the Zealot

We have found conflicting dates as to when the voyage from Liverpool began. One source states 26 September 1876, another states 26 October 1876, and a third states 26 September 1887. However, the end result was the same, no matter the date.

The ship, commanded by Captain J. A. Best, departed Liverpool, UK with a cargo, valued at 24,700 British Pounds, consisting of 790 bales, 91 cases, and 110 tons of iron destined for Bombay. In addition to the 53 man crew, there were also two passengers embarked onboard. The passage from Liverpool to the Mediterranean, and then through the Suez Canal on 12 October (date?), was uneventful and took approximately 3-weeks. The ship then cleared the Straits of Gubal and continued on her journey south towards Brothers Island and then, once sighted, altering course to bring the ship near Daedalus Island in order to proceed on to Zabargad Island.

At 0400 on the following morning, the Captain turned the helm over to his First Mate, Mr. Jonathan Russell. It should be noted here that this was Russell’s first voyage after being promoted to First Officer. At 0515 Russell went to the Chartroom double-checked the ship’s plotted course, returning to the bridge 20 minutes later to find that Daedalus Island was not only in sight, but was dead ahead!

Rather than making a sharp turn to avoid the Island, Russell only made a slight course alteration, possibly in order not to alert the Captain, which proved not to be enough to clear Daedalus. At 0549 the Zealot struck the reef at Daedalus shoals with enough force that the ship’s bottom was ripped away and the ship began sinking immediately. Captain Best arrived at the pilothouse and immediately took charge, ordering the engines stopped and lifeboats lowered. He was able to maneuver the ship enough to place the bow up on the reef in order for the remaining crew not already in lifeboats to leave the ship. Captain Best was the last man to leave the sinking ship.

The ship then sank in deep water, spilling cargo out as she rolled over on her way to the bottom.

At the Board of Inquiry held afterwards, it was determined that the First Mate, Jonathan Russell, was primarily at fault for the loss of the ship (mainly due to lack of experience) and his First Mate ticket was suspended for 12 months. Captain Best was also found at fault, but to a lesser degree, and his Master’s ticket was suspended for 6-months. Some sources indicate that this was a light sentence considering that it was the third ship that he had lost!

Diving Information

The ship now lies on the bottom in 75-110 meters of water. Technical divers Marcus Lohr, Tony Backhurst, and Kimmo Hagman were among the first divers to dive this wreck upon Marcus Lohr locating the wreck in 2003. Wreck identification was confirmed when a dinner plate from the ship was located which had the name Helme Park on it and the South Shields emblem. Lying on the reef above the wreck are remnants of the ship’s cargo of iron leading down to the ship itself. The bow is located at 75 meters with the stern lying further down the steep slope of the reef at 110 meters. Two anchors are also located beside the ship at 88 meters. This is definitely a dive only for the experience technical diver.

About Author

Lee has been in the marketing industry for the last 15 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. You can connect with Lee via Twitter by following @DiveMedia

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