Shipwrecks: Past & Present

Shipwrecks of May 10

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Shipwrecks of May 10

Today’s shipwrecks include everything from a British slave ship lost in 1806 to an American freighter that foundered in 1916 off Eagle Harbor, Michigan. The question of the day is: Did some of the finest paintings of the Old Masters go down on a Dutch yacht when it was sunk in World War II? If you are reading this in a post, go to to learn more about some of the many shipwrecks that have occurred on this day over the centuries.

Today’s Shipwrecks™

May 10

compiled and edited by Dr. E. Lee Spence

1773: The vessel Industry, Captain Glen, bound from Honduras to New York, was lost on May 10, 1773, on the Northern Triangles. The crew were saved after being five days in their boat without any sustenance. The vessel was loaded with mahogany and five tons of indigo, saved out of the Thetis. She had on board a large sum of dollars, which was also lost. (Note: The Northern Triangles or Banco Chinchorro is an atoll reef about 25 miles long, north and south, and just under 10 miles wide, lying off the southeast coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico and is one of the world’s premiere shipwreck diving spots.)

1781: On May 10, 1781, the brig Duke of Leinster, Captain Robert Caulpeld, bound from St. Croix to Cape Francois with herrings and dry goods, which had been taken as a prize by HMS Southampton, off Cape Francois, was run on shore in Cow Bay. The greater part of her cargo was saved. The brig Duke of Leinster, 132 tons, was armed with 12 cannons, and had a crew of 56 men.

1791: A French frigate, name not mentioned, bound from Hispaniola to France, was wrecked on Great Inagua Island, on May 10, 1791. The troops and crew were all saved.

1796: An item in the London Times stated that “the First Lieutenant of the Salisbury, and four men, in an open boat, came aboard the Africa from the Isle of Vash, with the melancholy account of the total loss of the Salisbury, the crew were all safe on board, but she was filling with water very fast. A schooner was immediately dispatched under the command of Lieutenant Man, to render them every possible assistance.” (Note: Its not clear, but from this and other reports, it appears that the wreck took place between May 10 and May 13, 1796 “on a reef near Isle de Vache, off the coast of Hispaniola.” Some reports give her location as Avache Island, Santo Domingo, but that is simply another version of the island’s name.)

HMS Salisbury, 50 guns, Captain Wilson, 343 men, was a two-decker of the fourth rate. She was built at Chatham in 1769.”

1806: The British slave brig Swan, of London, Captain D. Smith, bound from the Gold Coast in Africa to Charleston, with 200 slaves, went ashore on Bull’s Island, South Carolina, on May 10, 1806, and sank. The crew and slaves were rescued and carried to Charleston in a small schooner from Norfolk.

The Swan was 135 tons, single decked with beams, and was copper bottomed and drew 12 feet of water. When lost, she was six years old and classed A-1 by Lloyds.

1829: The French corvette-aviso Sylphide got aground on a reef between Tortuga and Port-au-Paix, Haiti on May 10, 1829, and went to pieces. (Note: Some accounts show the date of her loss as February 2, 1829.)

The Sylphide was 425 to 476 tons and was armed with eighteen 18-pounder carronades. She was built by Jean-Michel Segondat et Pierre Le Grix on plans by Pierre Ozanne and was identical to the Isis.

1834: The British ship Proselyte, 276 tons, Captain Turnbull, of Newcastle, bound from Limerick, Ireland, to Quebec, Canada with Irish immigrants, was driven ashore in the Flat Islands, off the coast of Newfoundland. All on board, consisting of over 230 people, were rescued by the Canadian vessel Juno

1834: The British snow Columbus, Captain J. Gray, bound from Newcastle upon Tyne in north east England, to Quebec in Canada, was lost 3 nautical miles east of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. Her crew was rescued. The Columbus was built at Sunderland in 1824 and was owned by W. Forest in Newcastle. She was 217 tons. 

1836: The Norwegian galiot Maria caught fire off the Isle of Pines, Cuba on May 10, 1836, and was abandoned.

1838: The British barque David Morrice, Captain John Lancefield, left Black River, Jamaica, on April 25, and ran ashore on the evening of May 10, 1838, “near Castle Island.” The captain and crew were saved.

The David Morrice built at Poole in 1831 and was 263 tons. She was owned by Morrice and her home port was London. She was a regular trader between London and Jamaica and was rated A-1 by Lloyd’s.

1839: The ship Oceanus, of Portland, Captain Prince, bound from Boston to Savannah, in ballast, which went ashore on the Stono Breakers, South of Charleston, South Carolina, on May 10, 1839, and was reported as totally lost. The steamer James Adams was sent to her aid. No lives were lost. The Oceanus was insured between two offices in Boston for a total of $20,000. (Note: Based on documents I have seen, I have some serious questions about whether she was actually lost, and this has been included to warn people to always follow up and do their own research. Wrecks reported lost may have been saved, while those reported as saved, may have been lost.)

1839: The schooner Canton, of Hallowell, Maine, bound from Gonaives, St. Domingo, for New York, was lost on French Cays, Bahamas about May 10, 1839. The vessel and the cargo were a total loss.

1855: The ship Caspian, of Bath, bound from Boston to New Orleans, with a cargo of ice, went ashore on May 10, 1855, on the Gingerbread Ground, Bahamas, and was expected to be a total loss.

1862: The sidewheel steamer William Seldon, 378 tons, was burnt at Norfolk, Virginia on May 10, 1862. No lives were lost.

The William Seldon had a wood hull and was built in 1851 at Washington, D.C., and her first home port was Georgetown, D.C.

1862: The CSS Plymouth was burned by the Confederate forces at the evacuation of Norfolk, Virginia, May 10 1862, to prevent her from falling back into Federal hands.

The Plymouth was a former United States sloop-of-war launched and commissioned in 1844 just prior to the Mexican-American War. She was armed with four 8-inch guns and eighteen 32-pounder guns, and traveled to Japan as part of Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s effort to force Japan to open her ports to international trade. She also served in European and Caribbean waters and, later in her career, she was used to train midshipmen. She had been scuttled and seized by the Confederates after the Federal abandonment of Gosport Navy Yard in April of 1861.

1862: The floating battery (fort) CSS Germantown was burned by the Confederate forces at their evacuation of Norfolk, Virginia, on May 10, 1862, to prevent her from falling back into Federal hands. Another account says she was scuttled as an obstruction in the Elizabeth River.

She was the former USS Germantown, which had been completely equipped for sea and awaiting a crew when she was scuttled at Gosport Navy Yard on April 20, 1861 as Union forces evacuated Norfolk. The Confederates raised her in June of 1862 and fitted her out as a floating battery to serve near Craney Island for the protection of Norfolk. As originally built, she was a wooden hulled, sailing sloop-of-war of 939 tons and was armed with four 8-inch guns and eighteen 32-pounder guns. She was 150 feet in length, 36 feet in breadth and 16 feet 8 inches in depth of hull. (Note: She was raised by Union forces April 22, 1863, but saw no further service. Her hulk was sold by auction at Norfolk on 8 February 1864.)

1881: The British barque Gananoque, Captain J. McMorren, bound from Belfast, Ireland to Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada, collided with an iceberg on May 10, 1881 four miles off Bird Rocks, Magdalen Islands and sank quickly. The crew landed on Bird Rocks, and were picked up from there two days later. (Note: The Magdalen Islands are a small archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Though closer to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, the islands form part of the Canadian province of Quebec.)

The Gananoque was built as a clipper ship by George T Davie & Sons, Lauzon, Quebec in 1857 and later re-rigged as a bark. She was 783 gross tons, 158.1 feet in length, 32.6 feet in breadth, and 19 feet in depth of hold. She was owned by W. Johnson at Newcastle. Her official number was 33377 and her signal letters were RFCD.

1916: The British cargo ship Dolcoath struck a mine and sank in the North Sea on May 10, 1916, Three and a quarter nautical miles north northeast of North Foreland, Kent, England. One crew member was lost.

North Foreland on Isle of Thanet

North Foreland on Isle of Thanet
2007 photo by Matt Boulton

1916: The American freighter S.R. Kirby foundered on May 10, 1916 in Lake Superior off Eagle Harbor, Michigan with the loss of all but two of her crew of twenty-two. The Kirby was a screw steamer built in 1890 at Wyandotte, Michigan and her home port was Detroit. She was 2,338 gross tons, 1, 823 net tons, and was 294 feet in length, 42 feet in breadth and 21 feet in depth of hull. Her official number was 116325. She carried a crew of 19.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, Michigan

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, Michigan
Photo courtesy Keweenaw Tourism Council

1916: The British ketch Panther was driven ashore at Hunstanton, Norfolk and was wrecked on May 10, 1916. Her crew were rescued.

1916: The British schooner Pursuit sprang a leak in The Wash and was beached at Hunstanton on May 10, 1916. Her crew were rescued by the Hunstanton Lifeboat.

View of The Wash, Hunstanton_Norfolk_England. 2012 photo by Joseph Krol

Looking out at The Wash, Hunstanton, Norfolk, England.
2012 photo by Joseph Krol

1940: The Nordnorge was seized by the Germans following their April 1940 attack on Norway, she was covertly put to use as a troop ship and was sunk on May 10, 1940, shortly after she delivered German troops to Hemnesberget, Norway, which was behind Allied lines.

Nordnorge arrived at Hemnesberget at 18:30 on May 10, 1940, after a 40-hour journey. Flying the German war flag only at the last minute, the German troops on board stormed the town. As Nordnorge approached the main quay in Hemnesberget, No. 3 Platoon of the 1st Independent Company and some 120 Norwegian troops opened small arms fire at the ship from covered positions. After getting a hawser ashore, German soldiers attacked across the quay, engaging in close house-to-house fighting. During the fighting three German bombers attacked the town. After an hour of fighting the British and Norwegian troops pulled back from the area. Following the capture of Hemnesberget, Nordnorge was unloaded of ammunition and supplies, and Allied and German dead and wounded brought on board. The fighting in Hemnesberget had cost the lives of five German and eight British soldiers, as well as two Norwegian civilians. When struck by gunfire and two torpedoes from Allied vessels Calcutta and Zulu, the Nordnorge exploded and sank stern first in deep water. As she went down, Nordnorge capsized and tore down the quay to which she was moored. The ammunition that had been unloaded on the quay was hit by gunfire and exploded. Sixteen houses were destroyed in the British shelling of Hemnesberget, and one Norwegian civilian was killed. Several of the wounded on board Nordnorge perished when she sank. As Calcutta and Zulu left the scene, they sank the small Norwegian steamer Ranheim. Before Nordnorge was sunk, the Germans had managed to unload the two mountain guns, while the other supplies lost in the sinking were replaced the next day by seaplanes.

Norwegian coastal express service/passenger ship DS Nordnorge, built in 1924.

Norwegian coastal express service/passenger ship DS Nordnorge, built in 1924.

As built, the Nordnorge had a tonnage of 873 gross register tons or 448 net register tons. She was 181 feet in length, 21 feet in depth of hold, with a breadth of 30 feet. During a 1936 rebuild her length was extended to 201 feet. Her 1,000 indicated horsepower triple expansion steam engine propelled her at 12 knots. She was built with a promenade deck above the main deck, and was divided into three classes. The First Class section was aft, Second Class amidships and Third Class in the bow area. Nordnorge was licensed to carry 270 passengers in coastal traffic. Just days before her sinking, she was armed with two 20 mm automatic cannon and two machine guns.

1940: The Dutch yacht Vigilanter, was sunk sometime around May 10, 1940 on the coast of Holland. (Note: Some believe she may have been carrying Jacques Goudstrikker, a wealthy Jewish art dealer from Amsterdam who was fleeing the Nazis, with the finest part of his fabulous collection of over 1,300 paintings by the Old Masters and some of the best modern artists of that time, but this does not match with other records that show Goudstrikker as having died when he fell and broke his neck in the hold of the SS Bodegraven in the English Channel.)

The Vigilanter was a sailing-yacht of 112.65 gross tons, 63.06 net tons, Her signal letters were PIGC. Her home port was Rotterdam.

Dutch Destroyer Van Galen 1929-1940

Dutch destroyer Van Galen 1929-1940


1940: The Dutch Destroyer Van Galen was targeted and sunk by German aircraft at Rotterdam on May 10, 1940. Based in the Netherlands at the start of World War II, the ship had been dispatched to help with the defense of Rotterdam. The wreck was salvaged and scrapped by the Germans later in the war.

The Van Galen was built by Fijenoord in 1928 and was 1,316 tons, 321 feet 6 inches in length and 31 feet 3 inches in breadth, with a draft of 9 feet 9 inches. She was armed with four 120 mm (4.7 inch) guns; one 75 mm (3.0 inch) AA guns; four 40 mm (1.6 in) AA guns, four 13 mm (0.5 inch) machine guns; and six 533 mm (21.0 inch) torpedo tubes.

1941: On May 9, 1941, German submarine U-110, commanded by Fritz-Julius Lemp, successfully attacked and sank, east of Cape Farewell, Greenland, the British merchant steamers, Esmond, 4,976 tons, and Bengore Head, 2,609 tons, which had been traveling as part of convoy OB 318. The British corvette, HMS Aubretia, which had been escorting the convoy immediately responded and located the U-boat with sonar. Aubretia and British destroyer Broadway then proceeded to drop depth charges, forcing U-110 to surface.  The submarine survived the attack, but was seriously damaged. HMS Bulldog and HMS Broadway remained in contact after Aubretias last attack. Broadway shaped course to ram, but fired two depth charges beneath the U-boat instead, in an endeavour to make the crew abandon ship before they could scuttle her. As the crew turned out on the U-boat’s deck they came under fire from the two attacking destroyers, suffering casualties from gunfire and drowning. The British had initially believed that the Germans intended to man the sub’s deck gun but immediately ceased fire when they realized that the U-boat was being abandoned and that the crew wanted to surrender.

Lemp realised that U-110 was not sinking and attempted to swim back to it to destroy the secret material, and was never seen again. Including Lemp, 15 men were killed in the action, 32 were captured.

Bulldogs boarding party, led by sub-lieutenant David Balme, got onto U-110 and stripped it of everything portable. William Stewart Pollock, a former radio operator in the Royal Navy and on loan to Bulldog, was on the second boat to board U-110. He retrieved the sub’s Enigma machine and a Kurzsignale code book, as they looked out of place in the radio room. U-110 was taken in tow, but on sank on May 10, 1941, while in route to Scapa Flow. U-110s capture, later given the code name “Operation Primrose”, was one of the biggest secrets of the war, remaining so for seven months. The documents captured from U-110 helped Bletchley Park codebreakers solve Reservehandverfahren, a reserve German hand cipher.


U-110 was captured by HM Ships Bulldog, Broadway and Arbretia

U-110 was a Type IXB U-boat and had a total length of 251 feet, a pressure hull length of 192 feet 9 inches, a breath of 22 ft 2 inches, a height of 31 feet 6 inches, and a draft of 15 feet 5 inches. The submarine was powered by two supercharged four-stroke, nine-cylinder diesel engines producing a total of 4,400 metric horsepower (3,240 kW; 4,340 shp) for use while surfaced, two double-acting electric motors producing a total of 1,000 metric horsepower (740 kW; 990 shp) for use while submerged. She had two shafts and two 6 foot diameter propellers. The boat was capable of operating at depths of up to 750 feet. The submarine had a maximum surface speed of 18.2 knots and a maximum submerged speed of 7.3 knots. When submerged, the boat could operate for 64 nautical miles at 4 knots; when surfaced, she could travel 12,000 nautical miles at 10 knots. U-110 was fitted with six 21 inch torpedo tubes (four fitted at the bow and two at the stern), 22 torpedoes, one 105 mm (4.13 inch) SK C/32 naval gun, 180 rounds, and a 37 mm (1.5 inch) as well as a 20 mm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun. The boat had a complement of forty-eight.

• • •

NOTE: This is by no means meant to be a complete list of the vessels lost on May 10, as there have been many thousands of ships lost for every day of the year. All of the above entries have been edited (shortened) and come from various editions of Spence’s List™. The original lists usually give additional data and sources. Those lists are being updated and, when ready, will be made available for a fee elsewhere on this site.

Click here to check out Dr. E. Lee Spence’s Facebook page on shipwrecks and treasure.

© 2013, 2017 by Dr. E. Lee Spence for composition, content and compilation.


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