The Loss of the Daunt Rock Lightship PUFFIN
The Daunt Rock, lying on the western
approaches to Cork Harbour, has been a hazard to shipping since earliest
times. This came to a head when the Inman liner City of New York was
wrecked on the rock in March 1864. The Irish Lights Board placed a
lightship on station to guide shipping from this hazard and by 1896
the lightship Puffin was moored in 16 fathoms east of the Daunt rock.
The Puffin on Rushbrook foreshore
This lightship had
been built in 1883 and was just after a lengthy refit, so was considered
very seaworthy and able for the job. On October 8 1896 a terrible
gale swept the south coast of Ireland, the changing wind direction
over the course of the night caused mountainous confused seas to develop
and by the morning of the 9th , Coastguards reported that the Puffin
was nowhere to be seen. Incoming steamers reported signs of wreckage
further east, but nothing to identify origin. On October 10th the
Superintendent of Lights had engaged the Clyde Shipping Company tug
Flying Sportsman to search the area, even though conditions were still
very rough at the harbour entrance.
In the days that followed,
sporadic unsuccessful attempts were made to grapple for the remains
of the missing lightship. In the meantime a new lightship the Guillemot
was towed into place by the tender Tearaght and successfully moored.
In the meantime rumours had started that the Puffin had not sunk,
but could have been blown eastwards, and there was even a report that
she had been seen riding at anchor near Tramore Co.Waterford. In the
meantime the painstaking grappling around the position of the Puffin
continued, now with the help of the firm of Ensors, the Cobh salvagers.
Press photo of the remains of the Puffin
It was not until
the 25th of October that a length of anchor cable was found, and with
the weather deteriorating operations had to be abandoned until November
5th. It was on this day, nearly a month later that divers, following
the cable found the forlorn remains of the Puffin. The wreck was intact,
but it was apparent that the savage motion of the sea had torn her
light mast from the deck, exposing the innards of the ship to the
Chart portion,showing position of Daunt Rock.
Soon she must have
been swamped and foundered. The weather again deteriorated and it
was not until the middle of December that the wreck was raised. It
was beached on a mud bank in Rushbrook in Cork Harbour and eventually
scrapped on the spot by Ensors.
No trace was ever
found of the eight crewmen on board. The Daunt Rock continued to be
a hazard on the western approaches, with the Cunarder Ivernia grounding
there in 1911 and the Greek liner Neptunia hitting the Rock in November