Fyne Pioneer, Loch Fyne

Site Name: Kartli - Islay & Jura


The Kartli was a 1900 ton steel factory ship built by Veb Volkswerft of Stralsund and launched in 1966. The 240 foot ship was a Russian fish factory ship with a crew of 51 under Kaptain Vladimir Gayduk.


The Kartli's final voyage saw her undertake a fishing trip in the fishing grounds west of Shetland before heading home towards Bulgaria. During a storm on 18th December 1991, the Kartli became a victim of a freak giant wave nine miles off the west coast of Islay. Local residents described the weather on the night of the accident as the worst they had ever seen. The terrible weather and strong tides together produced the massive thirty foot wave which tore the superstructure to shreds on impact. The Kartli's wheelhouse was smashed and her engine room and generator flooded by the force of the wave.


With no power or steerage, she rolled helplessly at the mercy of the wind and seas. Three of her crew, including one of the three females aboard, were killed instantly by the collapsing structure, a fourth died in hospital later, and 15 were seriously injured. The ship's distress flares were first answered by the Drupa who calmed the crew until the Navy an RAF arrived on the scene. Several aircraft and vessels were involved in the dramatic and successful rescue of all 47 members of her surviving crew.  Four RAF helicopters from Gannet, Lossiemouth and Northern Ireland, an RAF Nimrod plane, the Royal Navy Fleet Auxiliary vessel Olna, the Royal Navy Auxiliary tug Roysterer, the British tanker Drupa and the Islay lifeboat were all involved. Six of the crew left the ship in a boat and were picked up later suffering from hypothermia. The remaining crew were airlifted to safety by the helicopters to be airlifted either to the Olna or directly to hospital on the mainland.



The naval tug Roysterer tried unsuccessfully to get a tow line on the Kartli, but the ship eventually drifted on to the northwest side of Gigha where she ran ashore, her cargo of 400 tons of fish rotting in her hold. For some months it was uncertain if and when a salvage operation would take place. Salvage company representatives travelled to Gigha at the New Year to assess the feasibility of recovering the vessel amidst legal wranglings by the owner, Argyll and Bute Council and the Crown Estate Commissioners as to whose responsibility, if anyone's, removing the wreck was. After inspection by a team of divers, the salvage company decided it was too badly damaged to be refloated. Removing the ship, which was assessed to be worth just £50,000 in scrap metal, would take a month to remove at a cost of more than £1m. She was looted by unofficial salvagers who targeted the electronic goods which had been purchased by the crew to take home with them.


The ship gradually broke up, her plates buckling under the onslaught of the waves, and finally slipped beneath the surface during the winter gales of 1993. Initially a lot of rubbish washed onto the shore from the vessel, including much polystyrene, presumably from fish boxes. One of her masts still protrudes from the water today and is regularly visited by sea kayakers. 

Dive Site Info

The Kartli lies ashore at Port Ban, port side towards the shore, in depths of 5 metres.


Wreckage is no longer visible above water except for her mast and a few other pieces inshore among the rocks. Diverse sea life makes its home on the wreck. Divers can expect to see kelp, sea lettuce, sea hares (Aplysia punctata), nudibranchs including Polycera quadrilineata and sponges including Sycon ciliata.

When to dive

This wreck can be dived at any state of the tide.

Kartli - Islay & Jura - Fyne Pioneer

Mast of the Kartli. Image licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence BY-SA 2.0