Fyne Pioneer, Loch Fyne

Site Name: Floristan - Islay & Jura


The Floristan was built in 1928 for the Strick Line by J Redhead & Sons of South Shields, and registered in London. She had single screw triple expansion engines. She was 514 feet in length and had a weight of 5478 tons. She was hired for convoy service in the Second World War.


On the 15th January 1942 the Floristan set sail from Manchester in fog, joining up with convoy OS. 17. She was heading to Freetown and the Persian Gulf with a mixed cargo of tanks, jeeps, railway axles, wine, mail and gold bullion. She also had a deck cargo of several huge railway engines for the Russian railways. Rounding Northern Ireland, the convoy turned westwards into the teeth of an Atlantic gale. The battered ships could not keep station and became scattered. As night fell, the convoy commodore signalled all ships to break ranks and seek available shelter. The first casualties of the convoy ran aground on the Isle of Man and off Campbeltown.


On the morning of 19th January 1942, Floristan found that it had lost touch with the convoy. At midday, the master decided to make for Oban since the heavy deck cargo of two railway locomotives and tenders prohibited a westerly course. As all lighthouses were extinguished under wartime conditions, the navigatiors had to rely on dead reckoning. Furthermore, the crew were not allowed to break radio silence and reveal their position. The Floristan ran aground at about 9pm in force 7-8 winds and heavy rain, approximately 6 miles North of Orsay light at Kilchiaran Bay, whilst waiting for the rest of the convoy the Floristan became stranded. The screeching of metal and rock and the popping of rivets persuaded the crew of the Floristan to break radio silence and contact Portpatrick Radio which located her off the west coast of Islay using cross-bearings from the radio signals. The lifeboat from Port Askaig was launched at 11.35pm.


At 2am, the decision was taken to abandon ship as the vessel was clearly a total loss. Most of the crew escaped in the lee side lifeboats, except for the chief engineer who stayed in the engine room to shut down the engines and boilers to prevent them exploding, but he too escaped by making a jump for a lifeboat. The ship suddenly broke in two and the stern began to slide into deeper water, with oil pouring out of the hole in the hull. The crew aborted their first attempt at landfall as it was too rocky and dangerous, so they rowed further along the coast, eventually being led in by a beacon light erected by an RAF team from a nearby Radio Location Post. There were no fatalities - the whole crew including DEMS gunners, military AA personnel and six passengers cam safely ashore. The crew were given accommodation by the RAF, and local islanders provided clothing, hot baths and a wee dram.


At this time no real concern was shown as she lay on an even keel aground fore and aft, but within a few days her back had been broken behind the bridge, meaning that there was little chance of salvage except for her cargo. Some salvage work was done and 98 bags of mail and some of the bullion were saved.  

Dive Site Info

The Floristan now lies across the opening to Kilchiaran Bay with her bow close to the north shore. She is well broken up with wreckage over a wide area. The site is in shallow water with the majority of the wreck in 10-12 metres, but some piles of wreckage reach to within 5-6 metres of the surface.


Due to the fact that she lies in shallow water means that a good long dive can be had and she is worth it as there is lots if interesting thing to see and there are also goodies still to be had. On the main part of the wreck, you can still find the remains of the tanks and jeeps, upside down railway vehicles, and the ships boilers. 


She remains a fascinating dive despite the ravages of time and her relative shallow depth. 

When to dive

The dive can be done at most states of the tide. Her location, whilst not subject to strong tidal flow, is in a site vulnerable to the big swell that rolls in from the open Atlantic Ocean as it is exposed to the west. Even in good weather this site may be exposed to a ground swell.