The Iolaire Disaster


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The shipwreck of the HMY Iolaire was one of the worst UK maritime disaster during peacetime. The ship sunk Jan 1, 1919 in a severe southerly gale off Holm Point just outside Stornoway harbour. At least 201 of the 238 on board drowned (the ship was badly overcrowded and records poor, so the death toll likely was higher). Most were Royal Navy Reservists returning home to the Outer Hebrides after World War I, and represented nearly the entire generation of young men from the islands.

With a big southerly storm system in play, we went for a walk out to Holm Point to view the storm and the Iolaire memorial there. A stone pillar marking the site of the wreck is visible to the left of the memorial in the picture above, a mere 20 yards from shore at the edge of the breakers. It shows how dangerous the sea can be, where a grounding can happen so close to shore and still so many lives are lost.

Below are highlights from March 23rd, 2021. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

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Storm Coming
We’ve been watching the weather carefully as we prepare both for the local passage south to Ireland and the later Atlantic crossing. This Saturday would not be a good time to be out in the Atlantic.
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Sandwick Beach
The strong southerly winds were sending steady waves onto Sandwick Beach.
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Lambs
Dozens of cute lambs were in the fields along the way to Holm Point.
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Microwave Tower
The winds must be really fierce here—we’ve never seen such a low microwave tower.
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Windy
The winds were predicted to gust to 51 knots today and it felt like it at Holm Point. We had to really lean into the wind to stop from being blown over. The original memorial to the Iolaire disaster, erected in 1958, is in the background.
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John F. Macleod Memorial
On January 1st 2019, to mark the centenary of the Iolaire disaster, a new memorial was unveiled depicting the heaving line that John F. Macleod managed to swim ashore with. The ship was only 20 yards from shore, but the waves kept dragging him offshore. He finally got ashore by clinging to the rocks where the ship was aground and riding the crest of a large wave in. Forty people, nearly half of the 82 survivors, used the line to reach safety.
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Iolaire Memorial
Memorial to the Iolaire disaster above the infamous rocks the “Beasts of Holm”, where the ship went aground 20 yards from shore in a severe southerly gale January 1, 1919. More than 200 men returning from World War I were killed in one of the worse peacetime maritime disaster in UK history. A stone pillar marking the site of the wreck is visible to the left of the monument at the edge of the breakers, inland and right of the yellow buoy (click image for a larger view). It shows how dangerous the sea can be where a grounding can happen so close to shore and still so many lives are lost.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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