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"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship

Depth: 84 .
Date of sinking: 1855

Type of a vessel: trading bark ( brig )

Origin: the Great Britain

Length: 116 feet. 3/10 inches ( 35,45 meters )

Width: 23 feet. 6/10 inches ( 7,19 meters )

Depth of hold: 16 feet. 8/10 inches ( 5,12 meters )

The tonnage: 381 grt

Launched: October, 1841

Place: Aberdeen

Shipyard: Walter Hood

Rigging: three ( two ) masts

Port of registry: Aberdeen ( 1841 ), Swansea ( 1849 ), Bristol ( 1852 ( ? )), London ( 1855 )

Name of the shipowner: George Thompson Junr., Aberdeen Line ( 1841 ), W. Jenkins and Co ( 1849 ), John Richardson, John Crow Richardson/Swansea Wales ( 30.06.1852 ), Henry Dobson/81 Princess Street Bristol England ( 05.02.1853 ), W. Dobbin ( 1852 (?) ), Jordison ( 1855 )

Name of the captain: Alex Duthie ( 1841 ), Thomas Thomas ( 1852 ), Richard Pernam ( December 1854 - March 1855 ), Henry Hamden ( March 1855 - May 1855 )

Members of crew: 12 ( 1855 )

Port of the first destination: Santiago de Cuba

Date of shipwreck: May, 5, 1855

Place of shipwreck: the Black Sea, Crimea, near Balaklava

Circumstances: collision with HMS MEDINA

Final condition of a vessel: full loss

Human losses: no

Saving operations: the crew is rescued by command of HMS MEDINA

Name and place of the wreck: the sailing ship of Balaklava

Date of opening of the dive-site: September, 18, 2003

Name of pathbreakers: Anatoly Kopnin and Michael Fal'kovsky

Date of identification: September, 13, 2006

  For many years this object was marked on all navigation charts as an " unknown shipwreck ".
  In August 2003 a united search team of the dive clubs " Frigate " and " Aquamarine " pinpointed the precise position of the wreck at the depth of 84 meters near Sevastopol and determined its shape using a side view sonar.

  On the 18th of September 2003 Anatoly Kopnin ( " Aquamarine " ) and Michael Fal'kovsky ( " Frigate " ) made a trimix dive on the wreck using a preset shot line.
  They spent 9 minutes at the object and identified it as a wooden sailer.

  During the following three years members of many dive clubs repeatedly visited this shipwreck, took photos and recorded videos, explored its holders and retrieved some objects to the surface.

  On the 8th of September 2006 a team of technical divers which consisted of Andrey Bykov, Dmitry Shapovalov and Oksana Istratova, identified an unusual construction at the forecastle of this famous sailing ship of Balaklava as a watch bell.

  On the 13th of September members of the Tek Force Club cleaned it from epibioses, after which the inscription was rendered clear enough for reading : " AGNES BLAIKIE " ABD.

  This sailing ship was launched in 1841 and served Her Majesty Royal Navy. The shipwreck of the Agnes Blaikie has been well-preserved due to particular conditions of the Black Sea, including its salts content. The ship's bell has been mounted in such a way that its removal will cause destruction of the shipwreck. For this reason a decision has been taken to preserve it in its primeval appearance and to develop underwater touring.

The original drafts of bark Agnes Blaikie from the Lloyd's register of the 23rd of October, 1841.


  In summer of 2003 in the Balaklava bay of Sevastopol a wooden sailing ship was discovered lying in 84 meters of water. It had been most well-preserved, only its masts rested along its starboard side on the bottom. An intact steering-wheel could be seen at the quarter-deck, while its guard railings and decks were entangled in fish nets : just a real " ghost ship " of marine legends.

  The shipwreck became a frequent target of technical divers on their deep dives, completed near the Crimean coast. At the same time they carried on a historical investigation and made numerous attempts to identify it, but the ship kept its secret.

  Their first supposition was that this sailing ship had become a victim of a severe storm that had battered several dozens of vessels of the English and French fleets which had besieged Sevastopol in autumn of 1854. Then the famous English screw sailing frigate Prince, that had presumably carried a lot of gold and silver aboard, had been lost among others. But studing archives data and lists of lost ships didn't let them find out its name.

  Only in September of 2006 a sensational finding was made ! A team of tech divers from Moscow identified an unusual construction at the forecastle as a ship's bell. Before that a few had paid attention to it because they had taken it to be a fragment of the third mast. Divers had been more attracted by the steering-wheel and cargo in cargo holds, and had ignored what they had seen at the forward section of the bow.

  On that day the tech divers from Moscow took shots, and while looking through them already on shore they suddenly understood that this was the watch bell!

  On the 13th of September after cleaning the inscription became clear : AGNES BLAIKIE ABD.

  English archives, to which one could get access through the Internet during several days, cast some light on the fate of this sailer : when she had been built, whom she had belonged to, and under what circumstances she had made her last voyage to the Black Sea.

  The sailing ship was built in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1841. Sir Thomas Blaikie was at the head of the local authorities there since 1839 till 1847. He was the Lord Provost of Aberdeen who was elected by the Town Council and as a matter of fact served as a mayor. He also bore titles of the Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeen ( a personal representative of the British Monarch ), the Lord High Admiral of the Northern Seas and the Vice-Admiral of the Coast of Great Britain and Ireland. Agnes was the name of his wife and one of his daughters, so no wonder that one of the numerous ships, built in that town, got such a name.

  Let's turn over the pages of the famous Lloyd's register of 1841. Assistents of the British National Maritime Museum in Greenwich helped us to discover these records.

  A two page Survey Report under number 824, concerning the Agnes Blaikie, was put into the register on 23 October 1841. The Survey Report was a standard printed form ( an 3 sheet ), into which various details about the ship's technical characteristics were written in hand. They included sizes of frames, thickness of wood planking in all sections of the ship, sizes and type of metal parts ( iron or brass ), bolts, nails and fasteners. The kinds of wood and its condition were carefully recorded. In particular, English oak, foreign white oak, American mountain elm, southern yellow pine were used for construction. Dimensions of the hull, sails, rigging and anchors were also measured, and the exact characteristics of the bark were recorded.

  Length : 116 ft   3/10 in ( 35,45 m )
  Beam : 23 ft   6/10 in ( 7,19 m )
  Depth of hold : 16 ft   8/10 in ( 5,12 m )
  Tonnage : 381 GRT

  The Survey Report was signed by dockyard master Walter Hood and the Lloyd's representative with an illegible surname due to handwriting. The ship was classified 9A1 at the Lloyd's, which was the highest classification for that moment, and a duty of 4 pounds was collected.


  The Agnes Blaikie was first registered in Aberdeen in 1841, owned by George Thompson Jr., of the Aberdeen Line and commanded by Alex Duthie. Her maiden voyage took her to Santiago de Cuba. The Survey Report contains this information. The first captain of the bark belonged to a family of other very famous shipwrights of Aberdeen. The bark made voyages to South America, Australia and New Zealand. It was a cargo-and-passenger vessel which was rather fast-sailing for that time. This can be confirmed by an advertisement, published in The Times in January of 1853:

An advertisement, put in The Times on 25 January 1853.

  This advertisement was also published on the next day. But the Agnes Blaikie didn't leave England on the 10th of February. On the 16th of March a report of court of bankruptcy in The Times was published concerning George Marsh. A certain businessman turned bankrupt and was about to sail for Australia by the Agnes Blaikie. When his creditors raised the alarm and demanded to serve summons on him, the Agnes Blaikie was obliged to put back, and Marsh was arrested in a small village near Bristol.

Aberdeen in the 19th century

  - "For MELBOURNE, Port Philip, direct, to sail from Bristol the 10th of February, the fine, fast-sailing, English-built, clipper barque AGNES BLAIKIE, A1 and coppered, 600 tons burden. This vessel is well known as one of the fastest sailing clippers in the port, and affords a good opportunity for parties who wish to combine comfort and a quick passage. She will be ventilated on an improved plan, is 7 1/2 feet in height between decks, and will be fitted out and provisioned without regard to expense. Railway fare paid to Bristol. For freight and passage apply to H. Dobbin 163, Fenchurch-street, London ; or to W. Dobbin, 31, Prince-street, Bristol."

  The Engish press and history pass his further fate over in silence, but as for Agnes Blaikie, she must have successfully departed for the Green Continent.

  After that she changed hands again and at last she was chartered by the British government during the Crimean War to deliver cargoes to the Crimea.

  Let us read one more report from the impartial newspaper. On 21 December 1854 it was mentioned in the rubric " Naval and Military Intelligence " that :

  " The cargo vessel Agnes Blaikie in Woolwich is embarking 180 tons of shot and 250 tons of coke for delivery to the Crimea ".

  On 22 December 1854 it was reported that on the previous day the cargo ship Oscar with 158 tons of artillery ammunition aboard and Agnes Blakie with a cargo consisting of 180 tons of shot and 250 tons of coke had sailed from Woolwich docks towards the Crimea.

  But there was another news item on 10 January 1855, from which we get to know that the Agnes Blaikie was still in Woolwich at that moment, embarking supplies for the Crimea.

  The reason of this delay was not mentioned, maybe it was the Christmas holidays of the captain or the crew getting too long !

  Nevertheless, on 24 January 1855 the news were published that had been telegraphed from Deal : Agnes Blaikie had passed a lighthouse at 3 o'clock, sailing from London, bound for Malta. It was easy to track movements of the ship through reports that appeared in Lloyd's List Newspaper :

On 22 January - she sailed from the Thames heading for Malta ( captain Pernan )
On 16 February - she arrived at Malta from Woolwich
On 15 April - the ship left Malta heading for Balaklava ( captain Hamden )
On 26-30 April - she arrived in Constantinople from Malta
On 21 May - the ship was sunk off Balaklava presumably on the 5th of May, after a collision with the HMS Medina
On 26 June - Constantinople, 14 June : Agnes Blaikie which carried a governmental cargo from Malta to Balaklava, sank with it off the latter port after a collision with the paddle steamer HMS Medina.

  A real detective story ! So, according to these news items the ship reached Malta on 16 February and left for Balaklava on 15 April under command of another captain.

  The crew report from the British National Archive shows that the ship's crew totalled 13 members including captain Richard Pernan and his first mate Henry Hamden. In March of 1855 the captain left the ship for unknown reasons, and the first mate took his duties on the voyage to Balaklava.

  Agnes Blaikie spent almost two months at Malta. Nobody knows what caused this delay, but her cargo could be changed during this period. Exploration of the lower cargo hold of the wreck can help to determine it more exactly. If the cargo of coke and shot wasn't changed, they must have remained in resonable condition.

  So, it is clear now that the theory of " The Great Storm " asserting that the Allied Fleet suffered no other losses besides those that it suffered during the autumn storm, should be corrected.

  While we looked through old English newspapers and sought for new documents, we got a sudden responce from historian and researcher of the Crimean War Tom Moor, who shared some interesting information with us. He lives in Corfu. His great-great-grandfather who lived in Malta with his rich parents and graduated from a college when he was 15 years old, performed a clerk's duty on the British naval ship which sailed to the Black Sea. He borrowed from his father 5,000 pounds ( presently about 3 million pounds ), bought or rented a merchant ship, loaded it with goods and sent to the Crimea. This ship was lost in the Black Sea, it is unknown when and how. It's quite possible that we have found precisely this ship, though exact proofs are missing... The Moors' archives have not preserved details about their life in Malta except the fact that " everything was lost ". So George Moor Jr. could have become the first victim of the British sailing ship, when he was deprived of his whole fortune...

  The mystery of Agnes Blaikie was about to be disclosed, and soon we got from our English helpmates information about the circumstances of her sinking.

  There was a collision with the HMS Medina which was nearly 3 times as big as the bark. Agnes Blaikie received a big hole in her port side. All of the crew were saved and got off with a slight fright and a cold bath in the water, though the petty officer of the watch aboard Medina, who was to blame for the accident, committed suicide by cutting his throat immediately afterwards. There was a short news item in The Times among other naval and military intelligence on 23 May 1855, related to those events. It is notable that neither the ship's name nor the surname of the petty officer were mentioned in it.

British vessels in the Balaklava bay

  "The circumstances of this tragic accident have been found in the logbook of HMS Medina which is kept in the British National Archive.
  HMS Vessel ' Medina ' Saturday 5th day of May 1855
  PM 3.45 Came in collision with the Barque " Agnes Blaikie " cutting her down to the waters edge, immediately reversed engines.
  3.50 Lowered cutter and sent her alongside to tender assistance to crew, and made every preparation for taking ship into tow she apparently being in a sinking state
  4. Cutter returned with crew of Barque and their clothes.
  4.30 Steamed towards the Barque for the purpose of taking her in tow, but could not proceed close to the ship, fearing jib boom and jib Bowsprit gear getting foul of paddle wheels. Therefore despatched cutter to bring hawsers, while clearing the wreck. But before cutter could reach, the vessel was observed to sink. Leaving only her Main and Mizzen mast heads in sight, and a little of Port Quarter above water.
  4.45 Proceeded towards Balaklava.
  6.00 Despatched a boat with Commander into Balaklava
  7 Boat returned, proceeded full speed towards the wreck, and remained keeping her in sight until 8.30, when suddenly losing sight of her, it was supposed that she had entirely sunk, but remained outside the whole night under weigh for the purpose of leaving in the morning whether she had gone down or not  
  HMS Vessel ' Medina ' Sunday 6th Day of May 1855
  AM Damages sustained by collision with the merchant Barque " Agnes Blaikie ", Bowsprit, Jib boom Head Rails and Cut water carried away, about 10 feet of stem splintered and wood ends on starboard side started. Oars ash... 2 Hooks Boat... in 2 x lost alongside wreck trying to take her in tow. 11 men from the Barque " Agnes Blaikie " victualed on board am 2/3
  6 Despatched a boat into Balaklava harbour with Commander
  9.40 Boat returned. Proceeded full speed towards Kayatch Bay.
  11.45 Anchored."

  Thus the sinking of the Agnes Blaikie was documented by Navy sailors in a few lines of their logbook. The ship took circa 5 hours to sink. The crew took their things with them, but the logbook and all documents were lost in the wreck, as it was later said in the above-mentioned crew report.

  Thus the ship has rested on the sea-floor for 150 years keeping her secrets.

  But the matter is that in the times of the USSR, a top secret submarine base was built inside the rock situated at Balaklava bay. And we asked ourselves, whether it was possible that the submariners hadn't noticed this wreck which had been in their way ? As it turned out they had, and they had even visited it - the masts lying along the boards had been sawn down by naval divers. But of course that operation had been classified secret, and now we make attempts to find documents related to it, or its participants.

  Nowadays many complicated technical dives are made on this dive site. Technical diving carries much safety risk.

  In spring of 2006 the Agnes Blaikie found her new victims : 3 divers abused diving technique and got into a critical situation - they completely ran out of gas. One of them ascended to the surface without signs of life while his buddies had severe symptoms of decompression disease.

  Urgent transportation to Sevastopol and long treatment in a decompression chamber saved their lives, but they experienced long-term complications.

  Recently the Underwater Heritage Department of Ukraine decided to take the shipwreck under its protection, to install a memorial tablet and to regulate dives on it. What continuation the story will have, whether the sailer will find new victims, - time will show...

  But the beauty of Agnes Blaikie is nonetheless attractive.

  The article contains illustrations from British archives and some drafts of the American whaling bark Alice Knowles.

Alexander Lutenkov.

"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship
Agnes Blakie Sailing Ship
(photo A. Vagynskiy)
"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship
Agnes Blakie Sailing Ship
(photo A. Bykov)
"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship
Agnes Blakie Sailing Ship
(photo A. Vagynskiy)

"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship
Agnes Blakie Sailing Ship
(photo A. Bykov)
"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship
Agnes Blakie Sailing Ship
(photo A. Bykov)
"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship
Agnes Blakie Sailing Ship

"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship
Agnes Blakie Sailing Ship
(photo TekForce)
"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship
Agnes Blakie Sailing Ship
(photo A. Bykov)
"Agnes Blakie" Sailing Ship
Agnes Blakie Sailing Ship
(photo A. Bykov)

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