The storm of 8 October 1896

Two barques wrecked Pembrokeshire

Many lives lost


On the morning of Thursday 8 October 1896 Martin Edwards, who was a farm labourer on the island of Skomer off the coast of Pembrokeshire, heard the wind get up and soon a severe gale was blowing. He went outside to keep an eye on the holding. Then at about seven he saw to the south a steam trawler and a barque. Both were making for Milford Haven. It appeared that the barque was following the trawler.

Though the trawler got into the haven the barque was driven north and struck rocks in South Haven on Skomer. Edwards was unable to do anything to assist the crew whose calls for help he could clearly hear. The vessel sank drowning all hands.

It was some days before the barque was identified. On Saturday evening part of a lifeboat was washed up at West Dale marked Venus, Lisbon.

This barque had sailed from Cardiff on 1 October bound home with a coal cargo. There were no survivors of her crew of about twenty hands. The vessel was owned by the firm of Rodriguez & Roza. 

The Norwegian barque SEA KING had sailed from Cardiff on Friday 2 October 1896 with a cargo of 1,900 tons of coal bound for Bahia, Brazil. Listed A1 with Norwegian Veritas she was of 1,117 tons net.

The voyage was going well until the evening of Wednesday 7 October when the wind really got up when the vessel was about 100 miles to the south west of the Pembrokeshire coast. At three the next morning two huge seas broke over the barque and caused serious damage by sweeping the starboard bulwarks and three men overboard. All sails were lost and the Sea King was now leaking badly. The pump was smashed and the steering broken so the barque was allowed to run before the gale. The well was sounded and showed the vessel was flooded to a depth of eight or nine feet through the holds. There was no alternative to running her ashore.

Thomas Cole of Stackpole saw the barque strike the cliffs at about seven on the evening of Thursday 8 October. He ran to Bosherston and alerted the coastguard who were able to lower lines over the cliff to rescue the master G. Olsen, the mate, steward and five hands from the hull which was rapidly breaking up. Two other members of the crew were drowned there.

One of those saved was not a Norwegian but Samuel Saunders of Pontycymer, Glamorgan.