Built by Mitchell & Company of Newcastle, the Dunraven was officially described as an “Iron Screw Steamer – Planked” and launched in December 1873. She was one of those relatively new breed of vessel – capable of being powered by either sail or steam. A relatively large boat for her day, she displaced 1,613 GRT and had a coal fired two cylinder compound inverted engine – also built in Newcastle, by Messrs Humphrys and Tennant. Capable of producing 140 nhp, the Dunraven had a top speed of 8 knots (unladen). She was 79.6m long, 9.8m wide and had a draught of 7.3m. The Dunraven was owned and operated by W. Milburn of London and, after successful sea trials, was used on the Bombay run.
The Loss of the Dunraven
In January 1876, 27 year old Captain Edward Richards Care supervised the loading of his ship in Liverpool. It was a general cargo which included timber and steel for India’s fledgling heavy industrial ambitions. The trip out to Bombay was without incident and by the end of March they were loading the Dunraven for the return leg. Eventually, the Dunraven left Bombay on 6th April 1876 loaded with what was later described as a “valuable general cargo bound for Liverpool.” The ship had a compliment of 25.She made good time across the Indian Ocean. After a brief stop at Aden for coal, she continued on and up through the Red Sea. On the 24th April, the ship’s log records “weather fine and clear, wind light, water smooth, no sail set, vessel proceeding at full speed of 6½ knots.” At 1am the next morning the Second Mate saw high land right ahead and took this to be Shadwan Island. Fifty minutes later he then saw a light which he took to be Ashrafi Light – up in the Straits of Gobal, the Master was on the Bridge throughout this time and did not question either the sightings or their identification. The Second Mate described the light as a “bright fixed light” although he later changed this. Curiously, although the Master also saw the light, the man at the wheel did not.At 2.15am, the Master went below leaving orders to be called in one hour but at 2.40am the light was lost to view – as though it had simply gone out. Once again the later evidence of the Second Mate becomes confusing as he gives his evidence to the Enquiry. Firstly, he stated that he called the Master as soon as he lost sight of the light but later changed this to having called the Master sometime between 3.30 and 3.40 am – thus admitting he had failed to follow orders.When Captain Care did arrive on deck, however, land was plain to see some 6 or 7 miles off the starboard side – in a northerly direction. It was now 3.40am and he immediately altered course 2 points to starboard and curiously, therefore, closer to that land. Ten minutes later the look-out saw a large dark object in the water which he thought to be a buoy and called this out to the Bridge – but got no reply. At same instant, however, the Second Mate also saw the object but, thinking it was a boat, only casually reported this to the Master. Care immediately ordered the engines be stopped but before this could happen the Dunraven struck hard and the rocks immediately penetrated the fore compartment.The steam pumps were immediately set to work and a fruitless attempt was made to heave her off by means of a kedge anchor. By 7am, the water reached the engine room and put out the fires. By midday the starboard side of the upper deck was under water and the Master and crew took to the lifeboats. They remained with their doomed vessel and at 4pm an Arab Dhow came alongside and took the shipwrecked mariners on board. It was only at this time that the Master of the Dunraven was made aware if his actual position – off the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsular.
At 5 pm, the Dunraven slipped off the reef and sank in 15 fathoms (27m) of water. For three days the Dhow lay at anchor over the Dunraven until Captain Care and his crew were transferred to the passing Italian steamer “Arabia” which conveyed them to Suez. The Peninsular and Orient steamer “Malwa” later transported them all back to England.