Photo of the Shuna by Mike Clark

Wrecked in 1913 while carrying a cargo of coal, the steel steamship Shuna, built in Holland (880 net tonnes), was discovered in 1991, and lies intact and upright in 30 metres (16 metres to the deck). The wreck is quite silty, but can be dived at all states of the tide.

The Shuna was a British owned cargo ship built in Holland in 1909. The steamer, owned by Messers Glen & Co left Glasgow with a cargo of coal and iron on May 8th 1913, and was headed for Gothenburg. Captain Elsper had hoped to find shelter in the Sound of Mull for the Shuna – a 1426 ton heavy laden steamer – from a storm. The wind was pushing him onto the west coast of Scotland as he forced his way north from Glasgow. Inside the shelter of the Sound of Mull, the storm was not as wild, however the Captain was unable to see far through the driving rain and sea spray.

At 9pm, with daylight faded and visibility still poor, the 240ft Shuna ran blind on to the Grey Rocks and began to take in water. Elsper went astern, and as his ship came free he tried to head for Tobermory, but with no avail. The ship’s pumps were beaten and as the Shuna gained water, and Elsper beached her north of Rubha Aird Seisg. The ship’s bow was high and dry, but the wind driven waves began to fill her through the stern and she soon began to settle.

Captain Elsper and his crew abandoned ship and ran a hawser to anchor the ship’s bow to the shore. However at 10pm the hawser snapped and she went down in deep water. The crew rowed to Tobermory safely the next day.

The wreck rests in a small bay on the mainland side of the Sound of Mull, less than 200m from the shore. There is a buoy usually tied on by the mast amidships, where most divers will begin, with depth at around 23m.

Nearby, the flue from the boiler is open, where the funnel was originally attached. Inside, the ducting has rotted to provide access above the boiler, however there is not much space and there is a lot of silt that can be stirred up. Swimming aft, a shallow steel square marks the foundation of a wooden deckhouse that has now rotted away, followed by a much larger opening that would have once been the location of the engine room ventilation hatch. Afterwards head straight down above the engine. Inside, a grilled catwalk runs round the top of the ship’s three-cylinder triple-expansion steam engine.

Following the steps down to the main deck level at 25m, the planking is rotting but intact all the way to the stern. The first aft hold is half-full of coal, and has a good covering of silt. The beam from the hatch cover still bisects the opening. Between holds the aft mast is upright with large winches attached. The last hold is similar to the previous one, containing silt covered coal.

The spare propeller is still attached to the stern deck with pairs of bollards on either side. This is followed by a small hatch opening, too small to get inside with diving kit on. Steering is by a simple steering quadrant above the stern deck, with cables still attached leading out to either side of the ship, where they would be routed forwards to the wheelhouse.

Exposed surfaces of the Shuna are covered in tunicates and hydroids, with the tunicates even denser over the stern and on the rudder. Inside the rudder the propeller is still in place, the seabed here being about 33m deep. Forward from the engine and boiler room superstructures are a pair of short masts and another large winch. These service the midship’s hold. The covering for the companionway past the forward superstructure has rotted through, as has much of the deck above, which would once have supported a wooden wheelhouse. The interior is well lit through the broken roof, but crowded with rotting debris. Past the forward holds which contain coal as the previous did, steps ascend to the bow deck, with a hatchway between them leading into the forecastle. Some of the decking above has rotted through allowing a small amount of light to enter. At the back of the bow deck are a pair of drums for the mooring cables. Further forward, the anchor winch is intact with chains leading down the hawse pipes. Over the side of the bow the chain dangles and leads out until buried beneath silt on the seabed.

The Shuna’s anchors were originally set back from the shore when the ship was beached, ready to pull it off again later. Heading back towards the line, past the holds and the wheelhouse, the starboard companionway retains a little more of its wooden cover than the port side does. On a ship this intact, it is easy enough to relocate the buoy line to ascend.

Robertson et al. SOMAP 1994-2005
Moir and Crawford 1997, 192-3

With thanks to