The seabird season is quietening down and there have been so very low tides so I took the opportunity of taking a walk out to Normans rocks, the most northerly part of the island. It isn’t big and on the rocks themselves there isn’t much to see but at least I can tick it off my island list now. The view back down the island takes in all 3 lighthouses and the North Horrn and they all look quite far away from the rocks. Norman wasn’t at home.
The name for the rocks seems to have been forgotten in time but they were named that on the original 1854 6″ OS map so it is not a recent name.
As you cross over to the rocks you pass numerous bits of metal work that graudally become recognisable as parts of machinery and a ship. And in the gully between the North Ness and Normans rocks lies the remains of the Mars. The Mars was a small latvian cargo steamer, about 540 tons and a crew 13 that on the 19 May was on her way in some fog to Methil to load coal. Unforutnately she hit the rocks and stuck fast. The crew were taken off by our friends the Ansturther lifeboat but the Master, chief officer and a crew man remained on board for over 24 hrs before having to abandon when it was clear the ship could not be saved.
Below is the extract from the Isle of May Bird Observatory log of the time.
18 May 1936 “Tonight there is a gale from the east and the haar has come up; the foghorn has started booming.”
19 May 1936 “At 2 am this morning a Latvian steamer Mars went ashore on the North Ness, where she has stuck fast with water coming through holes in her bottom.”
20 May 1936 “The wind has got up and is blowing strongly from the N.N.E. The Mars is getting a bad buffeting.
22 May 1936 “Had a look around the Mars; she is badly battered and holed, inside is chaos.
24 May 1936 “The Mars was visited in search of booty but had already been looted. The event of the afternoon was the half tumbler of vodka each, called a dram. We greatly appreciated vodka these last few days.”
Over the years she has taken quite a pounding and is shattered into many pieces but the biggest part, her bows still lies in the gully.
When you feel the weight of the metal plate smashed up around the rocks you get a sobering thought as to just how powerful the seas can be around the May. Below is an old picture of the wreck after she had started to break up.