Cork Harbour is a large natural basin at the mouth of the river Lee on the south coast of Ireland. It has had a long maritime tradition, with trade between Cork, Britain and France dating back to earliest historic times. The booming emigrant trade to America from the mid- eighteen hundreds increased the importance of the harbour both as a point of departure and as the first landfall for cross-Atlantic traffic.

The name of Cork Harbour and the town of Cobh (formerly Queenstown) is probably best known as being the final port of call of the Titanic in 1912.
The White Star Line jetty in Cobh
White Star Jetty circa 1905
 

The port probably assumed it's greatest importance during the Napoleonic wars when Cork was the main provisioning port of the Royal Navy. It was also a major trooping port during conflicts
such as the Boer War.
  View of Cork Harbour in 1830

The First World War brought great strategic importance to the port, as the south coast of Ireland became an important hunting ground for German submarines preying on Atlantic traffic.
The Lusitania sunk by U-Boat 1915
 

Queenstown again became well known to the public during World War One, again for tragic reasons. Many of the victims of the Cunarder Lusitania, sunk nearby off the Old Head of Kinsale, were brought ashore in May 1915.

With the advent of the convoy system in 1917, Cork Harbour became an important assembly point for large groups of ships destined for the USA and Canada, and received the survivors of torpedoed and mined ships.
The arrival of American Forces in May 1917 pictured by Artist Bernard Gribble
 
Cork was also the base for the first American Naval forces in Europe under Admiral Sims, with a fleet of destroyers and subchasers based in Cork Harbour, and cruisers and submarines in Berehaven. In 1918 the first US Naval airbase in Ireland was in Aghada in the eastern part of the harbour.

With such large amounts of shipping traffic calling to, and passing the harbour, it was inevitable that there would be strandings and wreckings. The causes of these varied from mechanical failure, human error and weather, to wartime actions. Wrecks include sailing ships, steamships,submarines, and fishing trawlers.

The two natural hazards at the harbour entrance are the Daunt Rock on the western approaches, and the Cow and Calf Rocks at Roches Point on the easten approaches. The improvements in modern seafaring technology have not spared shipping to the port, with the most recent wrecking being of the Tonfield, seen below, in 1996.

 


This shipwreck site represents just some of the many wrecks of Cork Harbour, and is not meant to be exhaustive. The best source work for Irish shipwrecks is the three volume set Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast by Edward.J.Bourke. It is hoped to add more wrecks gradually to this site, as information becomes available.

 

Shipwrecks Views Sources Sealife
Royal Navy in Cork The Irish Naval Service    

 

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Page last updated 11th September 2005