Guernsey diver aims to solve shipwreck mystery

  • 22 December 2011
  • From the section Guernsey
Richard Keen
Image caption Mr Keen said he had been intrigued by the mystery since the 1970s

A Guernsey diver has asked for help to solve the mystery of a 100-year-old shipwreck.

Richard Keen said his research, which started in the 1970s, led him to believe what is known as the Mauve Wreck was the Frier Krupp.

He said based on weather patterns and the ship's expected course and speed he believed it had to be that ship.

Mr Keen said the Krupp shipping company still existed and hoped a German speaker would help with his research.

He said the wreck was first found in the middle of August 1912.

Mr Keen said: "A fisherman, Nicholas Le Sauvage, went out to pull his pots by the Mauve Reef, which is 300 yards from the Hanois Lighthouse, and there was a rock there that wasn't there the year before.

"It turned out to be a ship's boiler, so the following day he went out with George Le Couteur and the Lloyd's agent and a few other fishermen to investigate and there were a few bits of iron sticking out of the water.

"They deemed from the size of the boiler it would be a vessel of about 600 tonnes."

His own interest began 40 years ago: "The wreck site was shown to me by a fisherman. There was nothing of much interest, shallow water, all weed, bits of rusty iron and general junk not even any sign of a ship's engine or propeller shaft.

"It's always known as the mauve wreck and it's one of those mysteries that has always bugged me.

"I researched it 40 years ago and found not a lot, but I got stuck in recently and in the guildhall library of all places I found a record of a German vessel called the Frier Krupp, which left Bilbao [in Spain] on 16 December 1911 bound for Rotterdam with a 1,000 tonnes of iron ore.

Image caption The ship was wrecked just 300 yards from the Hanois Lighthouse off the island's south west coast

"It never made it to Rotterdam and I'm almost certain looking through the weather records at the time that it is the vessel that we call the mauve wreck.

"Very sadly on the stormy night of probably 20 December probably eight men lost their lives at the Hanois.

"No wreckage was ever washed ashore, no bodies were ever washed ashore, it's a real mystery."

He said of the Frier Krupp: "She was built in 1874... then until 1911 is a long period of time, modern bulk carriers we see today most of them only make about 17 years none of them make more than 25 years, and yet this vessel more than 30 years old was carrying cargoes regularly.

"All the other missing vessels of the time one can discount, this is right size, right time and I can remember 40 years ago when we were diving in the gullies where the wreck is there seemed to be a lot of brown gunge - iron ore.

"You've got to remember in those days all they had was a magnetic compass and if you put a 1,000 tonnes of iron ore in front of your compass it creates small or large deviations, it must have been very difficult navigating in those days.

"To be wrecked within 300 yards of the lighthouse it must have been very bad weather, driving rain and literally this boat ran aground and one big wave and it's all over."

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