The 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.

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. 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 breaking waves. 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 Ringaskiddy 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 1957.

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Page last updated 11th September 2005