Olympe Kuyper

Storm on the North-East Coast
Brig Ashore at South Shields

The weather during the past few days has been very unsettled. The wind has blown chiefly from an easterly direction, and the sea has in consequence been much disturbed. After a temporary lull, the wind again freshened last evening, and there were frequent heavy showers of hail and rain. Between eight and nine o'clock last night people on the Pier at Tynemouth saw a vessel lying off making signals for a pilot. The moon had just risen, and gleams of light between the heavy clouds showed a sailing vessel of some size making for the entrance of the river. No pilot or tug answered to the signals made, and the captain, after making effort to shake his vessel together, entered the harbour and crossed the bar, still making signals for assistance. He was evidently a stranger to the port. Instead of keeping in the channel the river, he appeared to mistake the beach on south side for the entrance to the harbour, or, as has been stated, the brig would not answer her helm. The vessel bore straight on past the end of the Fish Pier until she grounded on the Herd Sand. Additional signals were made when she grounded, and as quick as possible a rocket was fired from the vessel. Persons watching on the end of Tynemouth Pier had time to run the whole length of the Pier, and to reach nearly to the coastguard station before the guns were fired. The night at this time had become clearer, and when the people alarmed by the reports assembled above the Spanish Battery they saw a vessel lying broadside on to the sand, with her head towards the South Pier. In minute or two after the firing of the guns steam-tugs were racing down the river making for the scene of the accident. Great surprise was expressed that the signals were not seen, either by pilots by tugs. One statement is that the vessel burned lights for a considerable time before she entered between the piers. A pretty stiff breeze was blowing from the north-east, but the sea, which had been heavy in the morning, had fallen. Upon the reports of the alarm guns being heard thousands of persons rushed along the banks at North Shields, and to the Pier at South Shields, to ascertain the nature of the occurrence Those assembled on the north side of the river could see no more than the dark form of vessel upon the Herd Sand at South Shields, while those at the South Pier could distinctly see the masts and hull of a brig with part of her sails set, and green light burning brightly on the starboard side. The tide was fast receding, and the brig was rolling heavily upon the sand. Several steamtugs were soon alongside—amongst others being the England, Blue Bonnet, and the Stag—but their endeavours to get the vessel off at that time proved futile, on account of the ebbing tide. The lifeboats Northumberland, of North Shields, Tom Perry, of South Shields, were promptly manned, and rowed to the weather side of the brig, which proved to the Olympe Kuyper, of Rostock, from Boulogne to the Tyne, in ballast. The crew saw immediate danger, and therefore refused to leave the ship. The members of the South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade mustered in strong force, and had the rocket apparatus put in readiness for use, but their services were not required, and before ten o'clock they again left the Watch House. Upon the tide flowing this morning, efforts were again made to get the vessel off by the steam-tugs England and Blue Bonnet. These proved successful, and the brig was got afloat about five o'clock, and towed into the river. She is now moored off Cookson's Quay, South Shields, and does not appear to have suffered material damage. She is making a little water, but the leak so trifling that the crew are able to free the vessel with the hand pump. The firing of the guns, last night, caused immense excitement in the streets of North Shields. As soon as the first detonation was heard there was instant pell-mell rush for Dockwray Square and the Low Lights. Tyne Street was literally filled with one running crowd, who jostled one another in their hurry that several persons were thrown down. The footway along the Square was soon crowded, and all eyes were strained towards the South Pier and Herd Sands, where, owing to the dim moonlight, the black hull and sails of the brig could be seen. The fact that nothing very alarming had happened, was soon seen, and the crowd after watching for little while gradually moved off. The alarm from the guns brought swarm of tugs down the river, running a perfect race. One was in such a hurry that she travelled without putting up her lights. It seems the course of the brig was watched she made the harbour, and as soon as it was seen that stranding was inevitable, the North Shields lifeboat was launched, and the crew of twenty men had pulled her nearly across the Narrows before the guns fired. Another vessel sailing in shortly after the mishap to the Olympe Kuyper was in danger of getting, on the sands. One of the tugs went to her and warned the crew of the danger, and she at once turned out the proper channel. The official report of Captain Jurss, of the Olympe Kuyper, to the Collector of Customs, states that "the vessel would not steer owing to tide."

Source: Shields Daily Gazette 23 October 1880