S.S. The Zealot (Ex Helme Park)

During the BSAC expeditions of the early 90’s we came across wreckage in 40 mtrs on the north east side of Daedalus. Initial research suggested this could be the wreck of a Dutch East Indiamen, the Dacoa. Then in September 2004 I received an sms from the staff on board HURRICANE. A German diver had found some crockery with the words “Helme Park South Shields”.

When the sms came in I was on my way to the local archives, and within an hour Carolyn Durkin had produced a bill of sale for the vessel from Readheads to the owner William Wright, and then a bill of sale to the second owners John Glynn and Sons of Liverpool. From this documentation the entire story of the wreck was in my possession-before Markus Lohr, who found the plate had disembarked Hurricane!

The Zealot began life as the HELME PARK, a 1328 ton 243 ft long “spar decked double skinned iron hull screw steamship”, built in 1873 by John Readhead and Co at the Pilot street works in South Shields, ship # 91

( NOT January 1883 by John Readhead & Sons as quoted by Kendall Mc Donald in Diver). She was fitted with a 2 compound I.D.A. 120hp steam engine, which could deliver 12 knots. William Wright had commissioned the ship to modernise his renowned fleet of sailing vessels. Her master was H. Breham. Wright sold her a year later to J Glynn & Co of Liverpool, who changed her name to Zealot.

The final voyage began on 26th September, 1887 bound for Bombay.

The Zealot was captained by J A Best and was carrying cargo worth £24,700 described as general, 790 cotton bales, 91 cases, and 100 tons of iron” She had a crew of 53, mainly Lascars and two passengers on board.

The journey down through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal took until the 12th October, and after successfully navigating the straits of Gobul she sailed south towards the Brothers ( her best sighting of landfall) before altering to a course which would take her close to Daedalus for another sighting, and thus on passed Zabagad to the south.

As they closed towards Daedalus the light appeared dead Ahead and not abeam, the in experienced first mate Jonathan Russel reacted to slowly in taking action and the vessel struck a coral ridge ripping out her bottom and she quickly began to fill with water. The crew and passengers were put into the boats and the captain ran the bow onto the reef enabling the remaining crew to jump ashore. The vessel then settled and sank into deep water, rolling onto he side spilling out cargoes she tumbled down the reef. The Iron pipes, originally thought to have been rubbish from the building of the lighthouse are the first clue of what lies below in very deep water.

The crew and passengers were taken aboard a passing ship bound for Suez.

At the board of trade enquiry the cause of loss was attributed to the first mates lack of navigation skills, but apportioned some of the blame wards the master. Captain Best’s ticket was suspended for six months.

The wreck starts at 82 mtrs sloping down to 119 mtrs on the west side of the island. From an initial dive, she appears to be intact from midships aft. However Grant Seacranke later found the bow section and describes it as “CARNATIC LKE BUT FLATTENED”.

2005 footnote;

strangely, after the above was published in Jan 2004, a certain book has been delayed because “new discoveries came to the attention of its author” who then went on to “identify” the wreck. Post army stress syndrome or just plain plagarism ?????????????????????

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