The Strathclyde was built in 1871 by Blackwood, Port Glasgow for the William Burrell & Son shipping company. She was an iron steamship of 1951 tons with a 180hp 2 cylinder compound engine with 2 boilers and a single screw prop and measured 88.7 x 10.72 x 7.71m.
The Strathclyde was sailing from London to Bombay via Suez with 47 crew and 23 first class passengers under the command of Captain J. D. Eaton. As she left Dover on Thursday, February 17th 1876, proceeding at nine knots in clear weather, she was overtaken by the German steamship Franconia approximately two and a half miles from Dover sometime between 4 and 5pm. Capt Eaton ordered his ship to turn starboard but at the same time the Franconia turned to port and a collision occurred.
The German vessel struck the Strathclyde between her funnel and mainmast, cutting into her to a depth of four feet. The colliding vessel went astern only to rebound and strike a second time making another deep hole abreast of the mainmast. The Strathclyde sunk rapidly by the stern. The first lifeboat was lowered with 15 women on board but was swamped by the swell and capsized drowning most of its occupants. A second lifeboat was launched without mishap and managed to save 2 of the drowning people. By this time, the seas were breaking over the vessel as high as the bridge and washing overboard many of those on deck. The captain, 2nd Engineer and a fireman, were the last to leave, jumping overboard as she sank. Of those on board 38 drowned, Capt Eaton was among the survivors.
The subsequent trial, held at the Central Criminal Court in London, of the German master of the Franconia, found the master guilty of manslaughter. On appeal, however, it was discovered that English Law didn’t cover him in English waters, and they had to let him go. This led directly to the adoption by Parliament of the existing International Territorial Waters law, which many other countries already used.
Diving: This wreck is a real favorite with some in our dive club being relatively close to Dover and there being a lot to see if the vis is reasonable. She lies in 30m of water on a chalk and pebble seabed and the vis ranges from good (5-10m) to bad (1-2m). Present on the wreck are stone bottles, perfume bottles, jars of preserves, boxes of sheet glass and match boxes. Midships are crates of hand painted teacups and saucers. After the engine room there are areas where inkwells, marbles, bracelets, various bottles etc can be found. Around her broken bow can be found champagne bottles – again the liquid found in the bottles is undrinkable.