Tanker SS Blesk 1896

N50 14.019 W3 51.272

Russian Steam Nav. & Trading Co. – ROPIT

The Blesk was one of the first ships in the world to be designed to carry petroleum. Although not described as a tanker she could carry a cargo of 3180 tons of petrol.

The Russian steamer Blesk was 298 ft long and was pushed along at 10 kts with her 265 hp engines. She had a single funnel closer to the stern similar to modern tankers. On her last voyage she called at Constantinople followed by Gibraltar to top up with coal for her steam engines.

On December 1st 1896, captain Adolf Deme mistakenly took the Eddystone lighthouse for the Corbier lighthouse and changed course adorningly putting her on a collision course for Bolt Tail. At 9:08pm the Blesk hit the Gray Stone in thick fog and rain and high seas. The Salcome lifeboat rescued 43 men in two trips. Despite salvage attempts from two Plymouth tugs she was not refloated and broke in two with both pieces ending up both sides of the Gray Stone.
Carrying 3180 tons of petroleum, this early oil tanker took on coal at what is now Istanbul, then again at Gibraltar, and was steaming into very bad weather when the master sighted what he thought was a French lighthouse. It was in fact the Eddystone, some 14 miles south of Plymouth. The ship’s course was adjusted to the north and without further concern, the master thinking that a night’s passage would bring them into the North Sea. Late on 1st December she hit the Greystone Ledge just east of Bolt Tail, very close to the Ramillies Hole. Distress rockets were sent up and the boats swung out ready for the crew to leave the stranded vessel. Although the sea was very rough and air temperatures not far off freezing, both the Hope Cove and Salcombe lifeboats reached the vessel in a very short time. The Hope Cove boat arrived first, and in two trips saved all 43 crew. Next morning revealed an ominous trail of oil spreading along the coast, the first instance of oil pollution in South Devon

Today the remains can be seen from the cliffs thought the clear water off Greaystone

Nationality:         Russian
type:                      tanker
Propulsion:         steam
Date built:           1890
Tonnage:             2026  nrt
Dimensions:       91 x 12.2 x 7.9 m
Engine:                 1 x 3-cyl. triple expansion engine, single shaft, 1 screw
Speed:  10  knots
Yard no.:              337

IMO/Off. no.:     584