Know your Irish Shipwrecks? Try this Seriously Tricky Quiz!

Think you’re an expert in Irish shipwrecks? Find out in our seriously tricky shipwrecks quiz!


1. What supernatural reason supposedly caused the HMS Wasp to go down off Tory Island in 1884?

On the morning of September 22nd 1884 the HMS Wasp was sent on the less than savoury task of ferrying police and bailiffs to the small island of Inishtrahull to evict three poor families. But the ship would never reach its destination and crashed on the rocks off Tory Island. The truth of what exactly happened still remains a mystery however there were claims locals who feared the ship was coming to evict them placed a curse upon the boat and sealed its fate!

2. Which World War 2 ship went down with a cargo of Sherman tanks off Malin Head?

SS Empire Heritage started life as Tafelberg, a whaler tanker. It was hit by a mine in January 1941, the wreck was then salvaged, repaired and renamed Empire Heritage by the Ministry of War Transport (MoWT). It returned to service in 1943. She was on route from New York to Liverpool when she was torpedoed by the German U Boat U-482 around 15 miles northwest of Malin Head. She was carrying war supplies, Sherman tanks and other military vehicles.

3. In what year was the Spanish Armada wrecked off the west coast of Ireland?

In August of 1588 a fleet of 130 ships known as the Spanish Armada sailed from La Coruña with plans to invade England. They were met with considerableresistance and clashed with the English at the Battle of Gravelines. They were defeated and driven back to the North Sea. They attempted to return home but were driven from their course by violent storms straight towards the west coast of Ireland. At the mercy of the weather 24 ships were wrecked on the rocky coastline and at least 5000 men perished, and those that managed to reach the shore didn’t fare any better. A proclamation was issued saying that harbouring the Spanish castaways was punishable by death.

4. What shipwreck is visible in the opening credits to Father Ted?

MV Plassy was a steam trawler launched in 1940. On the 8th March 1960 while sailing through Galway Bay carrying a cargo of whiskey, stained glass and yarn she got caught in a severe storm and ran into rocks at Inisheer, Aran Islands. A group of locals rescued all the crew. Several weeks later a second storm washed the ship off the rocks and drove it ashore. The wreck has now become a tourist attraction and can be seen in the opening credits of Father Ted.

5. How far down is the wreck of the RMS Lusitania?

The RMS Lusitania was one of the largest most luxurious cruise liners of her day. On the 7th of May 1915 she was nearing the end of what would be her final voyage from New York to Liverpool. About 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale she was fired upon by the German submarine U-20. A single torpedo struck the starboard bow and an explosion erupted within the hull. The ship began to list steeply and within 18 minutes the Lusitania was gone. The loss of life that day was tremendous with only 767 of the 1960 on board surviving.

6. What precious cargo sank with the SS Gairsoppa in 1941?

On the 16th of February 1941 the SS Gairsoppa, a British steam merchant vessel, had been travelling with a convoy when she took a detour, making her way to Galway to refuel. A German U Boat fired upon her and she went down about 300 miles southwest of Galway with 85 men and a cargo full of silver bullion. The wreck was discovered in 2011 and an operation began to recover the cargo with an estimated value of £150 million. In July 2013 the US ship Odyssey Marine Exploration recovered 48 tons of silver, making it one of the largest and heaviest recoveries of precious metal from a shipwreck.

7. Muirchú, formerly the infamous HMY Helga, sank while being towed to Dublin to be sold for scrap. What island did she sink off?

Muirchú began life as the Helga and was used to shell rebels in the capital during the 1916 Rising. She was later handed over to the Free State and renamed Muirchu (Seahound) and was one of the first ships in the newly formed Irish Navy. She served with distinction for a further 24 years patrolling the Irish coast and in defense of the Irish state. On the 8th of May 1947, while being towed from Haulbowline to Dublin to be sold for scrap, she sank off Saltee Islands in Wexford. All her crew managed to get off safely.

8. What ship, hailed as the pride of the White Star Line, sank on its maiden voyage off the Irish coast?

The RMS Tayleur was to be the pride of the White Star Line but her maiden voyage was doomed to end in tragedy. On the 19th of January 1854 she left Liverpool and headed towards Australia with 650 passenger, including crew, who were hoping to set up new lives and seek fame and fortune in the gold rush. But her design was flawed, and problems with the navigation allowed her to drift off course. Deep in the fog she headed west instead of south, straight for the perilous rocks of Lambay island. They noticed too late, and the collision was unavoidable. The ship struck the rocks and sank taking with her 350 passengers.

9. How many gold bars are still unaccounted for at the wreck of the SS Laurentic?

On the 25th January 1917 the SS Laurentic was heading from Liverpool to Canada with a cargo full of gold to pay for arms. But less than an hour after an unscheduled stop in Buncrana the ship struck two mines left by a German submarine at the entrance to Lough Swilly. The Laurentic quickly sank taking with her 354 souls and around 3,200 gold bars. After the sinking, the Royal Navy organised several dives to retrieve the lost gold. But rumours went, and persist, that 22 bars still remain unaccounted for and could still be found within the wreck.

10. Who was the only survivor of the HMS Saldanha?

The HMS Saldanha was a 36-gun Apollo-class frigate of the British Royal Navy. On the 4th December 1811 the shipwrecked in a heavy gale on Lough Swilly. Of the 253 onboard there was no survivors - or so they thought. A few months later a strange bird was shot in a garden around 20 miles from the wreck. The bird turned out to be a parrot with a collar engraved with "Captain Packenham of His Majesty's Ship Saldanha".


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About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me ann@coastmonkey.ie or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22