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Wreck of the Thorne

The Salvgage Operation


In the meantime, a cable had been sent to The Salvage Association at Liverpool and their Capt. Young arrived in Douglas on Saturday evenings packet boat. The Association’s steamer Mallard followed, reaching Douglas on the Monday with divers, steam pumps and other salvage equipment. On Tuesday the weather had moderated and work began on salvaging spars and rigging and divers went down to inspect the hull. It was found that the Thorne had suffered a large hole beneath the main mast and there was more damage at the stern post where she had first struck the rocks.

A small amount of the cargo was salvaged, including a quantity of spirits, and this was loaded on to Knox’s steamer the Lady Loch and the spirits put in bond at the Customs’ warehouse in Fort Street. Non-dutiable items of cargo were stored in Duff’s warehouse on the South Quay. With a spell of more settled weather, salvage operations, both of the cargo and of the vessel, were stepped up. The method employed for the cargo when the tide allowed was for the steamer W S Caine to lie alongside the Thorne and the cargo was transferred direct to the steamer. At other times the Lady Loch and the Mallard acted as tenders and brought the cargo out to the W S Caine in deeper water. A major problem, according to The Examiner, was in preventing those engaged in the work from sampling the liquid cargo.

Other vessels taking part in the salvage were the Salvage Association’s Hyena, and the Marie, which with the W S Caine, was used to ship the salvaged cargo to Liverpool. The Hyena was equipped with electric floodlights which enabled work to be carried out in the hours of darkness. Around high water divers worked inside the hull attaching lifting ropes to the cargo. It was recorded in The Manx Sun of 8th February that the salvaged goods included "..many thousand cases of whisky and cognac also several thousand gallons of Guinness’s stout, and large quantities of general cargo, preserved meats, furniture, silk, cloths, linen, etc..".

As the Thorne was being cleared of cargo, and by the beginning of February most of the upper cargo deck had been cleared, attention was turning towards the salvage of the vessel. On Monday 3rd February attempts began to refloat the Thorne. The damage which she had suffered was found to be more than had at first beenthought. Divers reported that she was badly damaged aft of the mizzen mast and that her stern post was knocked in. There was further damage on the starboard side and a big hole on the port. To make matters worse, it was found that there was a piece of rock in the position where she lay which would interfere with any attempts to get her off.

It is not recorded whether the rock was outside the hull or within it but explosives were used, without success, to remove it. Three powerful steam pumps of ten inch bore were prepared and each of these was capable of shifting about twelve tons of water a minute. Collision pads were lashed in place on the hull to plug the holed areas. Pumping started at eleven o’clock on the Tuesday evening but one pump failed and work stopped until the following morning when all three pumps went into action again. It was of no avail and despite the tremendous volume of water which was pumped out, levels inside the hull gained by about an inch per minute as the tide rose.

It was later discovered that a portion of rock had penetrated the Thorne’s bottom on her port side amidships and the sea came through this hole as fast as it could be pumped out. The salvors then tried to plug the holes from the inside of the hull but this was no more successful.The Manx Sun of 8th February recorded that all attempts to float the Thorne had been abandoned for the present and that the whole of the remaining cargo would be removed before making any further attempts to get her off. The upper cargo deck was almost clear of cargo. Work had not started on the lower deck which contained the heavier items such as barrels of porter and brandy, bar iron and, presumably, the "great number of grinding stones".

Around half of the cargo had been salvaged and it was reckoned that another ten days, or perhaps a fortnight, of favourable weather was needed to clear the remaining 600 to 700 tons. If all went well, theintention was to refloat the Thorne and to beach her landward of Conister Rock, there to be made fit to be towed to a graving dock at Liverpool.