Aground off Sharpness
was much excitement at Sharpness on the 27th Dec 1936 when it was
seen that the steamer Argentina had gone aground off the
North Pier. She had come up the river, assisted by two Bristol tugs,
carrying almost 7000 tons of maize and wheat from Rosario, near
Buenos Aries. While making the usual turn to head into the last
of the flood tide, the bow tow rope parted and the strong tide pushed
her back on to rocks. On the following morning, an attempt was made
to tow her off using seven tugs from Bristol - Islegarth, Plumgarth,
Reagarth, Corgarth, West Winch, Bristolian and Merrimac. The
Sharpness tug Resolute was also in attendance (far left in
picture). Unfortunately this mammoth effort was not successful,
and realising that the vessel had sustained considerable damage,
the master who was also the owner, abandoned her to the insurers
as a constructive loss.
Return of a Familiar Sight
Argentina was well known to Sharpness folk as she had spent
five years laid up in the dock when formerly called Dundrennan.
She had arrived with a cargo of grain in December 1929, and with
no prospect of further work due to the depression, she was tied
up on the west side of the dock near the Low Level Bridge. She was
there so long that local people called her the Dunrunnin
because they thought she'd never run any more. One incident that
broke the idleness was a fire in the paint and oil store, but this
was soon extinguished by the Dock Company’s fire brigade. Eventually
she was bought by a Greek owner and left Sharpness, but now she
was back again - and aground.
Discharging the Cargo
only hope of moving the ship was to discharge some of the cargo.
However, it was not possible to get barges close alongside for any
length of time due to the jagged rocks around the ship. So men were
brought across from the Princess Royal colliery in the Forest of
Dean to blow up the rocks at low tide, and others broke up the stone
and levelled it to form a platform on which barges could lie alongside
while the tide was out. This allowed some of the cargo to be off
loaded into barges and taken into Sharpness. Meanwhile, large baulks
of timber were buried in the foreshore with ropes attached that
were run out to the ship to secure her in case she floated on a
Recovering the Ship
about half of the cargo had been discharged, tugs made another attempt
to pull the ship off the rocks on the 10th February, and this time
they were successful. The Argentina was towed into Sharpness
dock and the remainder of her cargo was discharged. However, inspection
of her hull showed that it was too badly damaged to be worth repairing,
and so she was towed to Cashmore’s at Newport to be broken up.
Sources: Memories of Jack Evans; TNA RAIL 864/34, 56, 57.