Aeolian Sky 1979

N50 30.548 W2 08.329

Steve first dived this wreck the day after it went down. The position was clear to see with oil from the wreck reaching the surface. The ship had just been painted and was an unusual underwater sight as she lay on its side at 30m. Inside the cabins the curtains and furnature were floating around like ghosts.
Dive boats from all around the Dorset coast flocked to the wrecksite as the seabed was awash with socket sets and reams of cloth. The land Rovers became at target for divers with the wheels with tyres flying to the surface. The two Electric railway locomotives were a sight to see as was the thousands of jars of Marmite.

The main attraction was that it was rummered she was carrying 600,000 Seycheleee 100 rupee notes (£4.5m). The banknotes had been printed by Bradbury Wilkinson and Co. Ltd of New Malden in Surrey and loaded in Hull. Specialist divers were hired to recover the notes contained in wooden boxes but thet had disappeared without a trace. This led to police raiding the premises of local fishermen and divers. Later on a fisherman handed over 4 of the banknotes.

The Aeolian Sky was built in 1978 at the Japanese Hashihama Shipyard. She was 148 metres long, weighed over 14,000 tonnes, and was valued at £3 million. Registered in the Greek port of Piraeus, she was run by Proteus Maritime SA, and was a conventional modern ship with crew quarters in the superstructure and her own large derricks for unloading cargo.

In late 1979 the Aeolian Sky sailed from Hull, via Rotterdam, to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Africa. On 3 November 1979 while travelling 20 miles off the coast of Guernsey in the Channel Islands she collided with the German coaster Anna Knueppell in fog, during a storm at 4.30 a.m. A French tug based at Cherbourg, the Abeille Languedoc, went to the scene and managed to get a line aboard. Plans were initially laid to tow her back to the French port; only lightly damaged, the Anna Knuepell stood by to render assistance if needed.

At 9.30 in the morning a Royal Navy helicopter arrived and evacuated most of the crew; it then had to withdraw to its base at Lee-on-Solent with engine problems, leaving a handful of crew aboard the now sinking vessel. By this time the ship had drifted some distance and was sinking at the bows, so the initial plan was abandoned and the tug headed for The Solent.

However, the port authorities of Portsmouth and Southampton, concerned that the ship would sink fouling their busy waterways, declined permission for her to enter either port. With the weather at gale force, the tug started to tow the Aeolian Sky into the storm to try to make the shelter of Portland Harbour. However at 3.45 a.m. on November 4, 1979 she took on too much water and sank 5 miles south of St Aldhelm’s Head, still 12 miles from the safety of Portland. She settled on her port side in 30 metres of water with her bows facing south.

Today the wrecksite is very different as exposives were used to reduce the height of the ship off the seabed.