Five lives were lost out of a crew of eleven when the Norwegian three-masted barque Teutonia was driven ashore at Findon around midnight on the Thursday 28th October 1915. At the time there was a violent wind blowing from south-southeast.
Captain Frithjof Ask, who was one of those saved recounted that the vessel had sailed from Landefjord, Norway with a cargo of wooden pit props for Leith and had reached the May Island on Thursday morning. At that point she was caught and driven before the gale in a northerly direction and throughout that day remained within sight of the land. The vessel developed a leak and the deck cargo was then jettisoned however the crews attempts to fix up more sail failed, the canvas being ripped to shreds before it could be put up.
Eventually the vessel was driven helplessly before the wind into the rock bound creek of Arnot Boo just to the north of Findon Shore. When the vessel struck rock it broke up amidships within minutes and the crew huddled together at the stern which remained fast for a few minutes. As this happened the cargo of pit props were released and began to fill the creek and those created a series of rafts like stepping stones between the stricken vessel and the rocks. It was by way of these “rafts” that six of the crew managed to leap or scramble ashore, the less fortunate falling between the cargo and the rocks and being swept to their deaths.
All the escapees were uninjured bar one who had a badly bruised right leg. By the time the lifeboats of Muchalls and Cove Bay arrived on the scene there was nothing they could do as the Teutonia had already broken up and was in pieces.
Captain Ask recounted his story afterwards from the house of George Hall in Findon, who had made provision for housing three of the survivors, the other three being accommodated by a neighbour. Captain Ask takes up the story from when he arrived at the Isle of May:
“Here we had to turn and go outside the May Island, and when we got outside the wind was blowing from the south-southeast. After a time it started to blow like the very d- (insert your own word here or make up a Norwegian swear word beginning with the letter “d”), and we had to shorten two topsails. Still the wind braced up more and more, till it was blowing a real gale, and the ship’s rail was under water. During the night, in the storm, lots of the deck cargo started to drift away, and, when daybreak came and we could not manage to get back to the Forth, we had to run eastward.
We had to keep away from the land as much as we could, but we never got clear of it, seeing it most of the way as we were driving on. Yesterday afternoon the ship sprang a leak. At night I called the crew together and spoke to them. It was resolved to throw all deck load overboard to lighten the ship, seeing we had nearly five feet of water in her amidships and more when she lay over on her side. We threw the whole of the deck cargo overboard and ran the ship before the wind, for that was all we could do. We tried to put more sails on but the sails were blown away as soon as we put them up.
It was not long after that, about half past eleven last night, that the vessel began to get among the rocks, and we had several heavy seas breaking over her. We had to go down to the cabin because of those seas, which were sweeping everything from the deck. The ship was running straight up the creek with her bow to the shore. When she struck, the rigging went right overboard to the lee side, clear of the vessel. There was just one smash, the rigging went overboard, and the next moment the ship broke in two, the whole of the bow being engulfed in the breakers. We were left in the aft part in a most perilous position. Here we were with half a ship in a raging sea and in danger of being engulfed every moment. Then, strangely enough, the stern was whirled round nearer the shore, bringing us close up, and the whole of the inside cargo emptied out. It was here that we made our miraculous escape. Although we had our lifebelts on, it was over the pit props that we reached the shore. In two minutes our good ship had gone, smashed on the rocks, and there was very little left but a lot of props to tell that there had been a vessel.
We are all very sorry several of our shipmates did not manage to get safely ashore when they were so near. I saw one or two of them disabled. A heavy sea struck one and knocked him down just as he was getting overboard. Another was badly hurt on the head and one or two among the logs tried to swim ashore, and were probably stunned by the heaving props and drowned. I cried out to one or two of them and tried to get hold of them, but could not. There was no help at hand then, and we had to make our own way as best we could up the face of the brae and over a field to the first house we saw. Then we found shelter and comfort in this house and right thankful we were to get it. The boy Tolef Pedersen met with an accident to his right leg through falling between the props and having it severely bruised. I was very lucky myself to escape injury”.