Rust-covered ruins of Spanish Prince blockship wreck, Dover Harbour, Kent, UK

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John Latter on July 12, 2010

The Spanish Prince cargo ship, built in 1894 as the Knight Bachelor, had its superstructure removed in 1915 and replaced by at least four metal latticeworks towers - looking very much like truncated modern-day electricity pylons - prior to the ship being sunk on the Southern Breakwater side of Dover Harbour's Western Entrance (see Blockship info below).

The 450-foot long wreck of the Spanish Prince runs left-to-right across the photo with the stern (marked by the North Cardinal Wreck Buoy) and beach to the left, and the bow and western end of the breakwater to the right: click to see a Multi-beam Sonar Survey Image of the Spanish Prince.

The main unit in the above photo is the Waasland sea barge, otherwise described as a flat-topped pontoon and owned by Herbosch Kiere Marine Contractors, whose component parts each have "Kallo" painted on them just above the waterline. To the left of the Waasland side pontoon holding the yellow CAT (and tethered to it by a blue rope) is the Haven Seafield barge. Behind the containers on the Haven Seafield is the red-topped white superstructure of the Sarah Grey workboat (also called a tug or multicat).

The rusting metalwork visible in the Waasland's crane grabber could be part of the original ship, but as this is only the third week of a 10 to 12-week project to remove the wreck (see Waasland Sea Barge or Waasland Sea Barge 2 for more info), it may also be the lower part of one of the towers to which anti-submarine nets were once attached. Either way, the last time this metalwork was seen above the waves was 95 years ago when the First World War was barely 6 months old!

The grabber is being dropped into the sea along the line of the small red buoys in the photo foreground and whatever remains are recovered are then swung around to be deposited on the far side of the Waasland. From here the "CAT" excavator (Caterpillar Tractor Company) on the Waasland transfers the remains to the containers on the Haven Seafield (nb the main crane is made by the American Crane and Equipment Corporation).

Once the containers are full, the Sarah Grey pushes the barge to the old Jetfoil Basin where a dockside crane lifts the containers onto an area adjacent to the Cruise Terminal 1 building on the Admiralty Pier. The containers belong to the Nationwide Metal Recycling company.

During the period I watced the Waasland's crane in action, it sometimes came up empty and sometimes the load dropped back into the sea.

There's a second Herbosch-Kiere unit helping the Waasland called the Gaverland, a 60 x 22 metre flatbed barge whose crane has a "finger and thumb" claw ending, apparently designed to grip and tear/cut, as well as pound the wreck by dropping on it (I think the Gaverland breaks the ship up and the Waasland picks up the pieces). To date, the Waasland and Gaverland are usually seen tethered together (these things fit together like lego).

The photo was taken at 4.21 pm on Thursday, 1st July 2010, from the Admiralty Pier. The Waasland is about a third of the way along from the stern of the 450-footSpanish Prince while the Gaverland is at the bow. Its a zoomed shot from 400 yards away using an old charity shop-bought lens for which I really need some filters (and instructions on how to use both camera and filters).

The Eastern Arm pier running behind the Waasland juts out from the Eastern Docks (the cross-channel ferry terminal) which are located below the start of the White Cliffs of Dover. At the end of the Eastern Arm is the Eastern Entrance to the Straits of Dover and English Channel.

The strange-looking object on top of the cliffs in the top left-hand corner of the photo is the South Foreland lighthouse (see all lighthouses) which is currently cocooned in scaffolding for maintainance (as are all active lighhouses). The top of the Old South Foreland lighthouse, built in 1793, can be seen between the boom and grabber of the crane. Both lighthouses are over 5000 yards away.

As more photos of the Spanish Prince's removal are going to be uploaded, I've created a Spanish Prince tag (this should be easier than trying to remember which photos should be cross-linked to which). Clicking on the tag will display small versions of all related photos in the order they've been added to the Images of Dover website (ie earliest first).

The Dover Harbour Blockships:

Two cargoships, the Spanish Prince and Livonian, were scuttled at right-angles on each side of the Western Entrance in 1915 during the First World War. Before being put in place, the ships had their superstructures replaced with gantries (metal lattice-works) to which anti-torpedo and anti-submarine nets could then be attached (see Anti-Submarine Nets, North Entrance, Western Heights 1 and Anti-Submarine Nets, North Entrance, Western Heights 2). (1)

The Livonian was subsequently removed in the 1930s, but the Spanish Prince was left in a slightly altered position in order to reduce tidal flow in the harbour.

Other blockships were used during the Second World War, one of which was the RFA War Sepoy whose "front half" once occupied the disturbed area adjacent to the right-hand side of the Spanish Prince's stern shown in the sonar image (more about the War Sepoy below).

The Spanish Prince was built in 1894 by Charles Connell and Company at Glasgow with a tonnage of 6505grt, a length of 450ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 11 knots. She was launched on Wednesday, 6th June 1894, and completed in the following August as the Knight Batchelor for Greenshields, Cowie & Co. of Liverpool, a company whose history goes back to 1795. (1)

On Monday, 26th April 1897, during a voyage from Cardiff (Wales) to Norfolk (Virginia, USA), she hit an iceberg and limped into Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) four days later with 30 feet of her bow missing. Repairs cost 30,000 dollars. She was acquired by Prince Line in 1907 for 35,000 pounds and, as the Spanish Prince, was the company's largest ship and remained so until 1918. (2)

On Sunday, 5th October 1914, whilst in St. Nazaire Roads, she sustained damage to her hull when her anchor chain broke and she grounded. She was subsequently acquired by the Admiralty. (2)

The Spanish Prince was Newcastle registered.

The War Sepoy was built by William. Gray of Hartlepool, and launched on Thursday, 5 December 1918, War Sepoy was completed on Thursday, 6 February 1919 for Shipping Controller, and managed by Anglo-Mexican Petroleum Products Company, London. (3)

In 1921 she was transferred to Admiralty, and in 1936 the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. War Sepoy was damaged and burnt out during a Stuka air attack at Dover on Friday, 19 July 1940. She was filled with concrete, towed into position within the Western Entrance, and sunk as a blockship (in three parts) on Saturday, 7 September 1940. Disposal commenced on Tuesday, 2 May 1950, and the entrance was opened again on Sunday, 26 April 1964. (3)

Click to see all Ships photos (related tags: Boats, Ferries, Cruise Ship) and Lighthouse photos.

(1) From Ships in the Port of Dover, Western Entrance Blockships. (2) From The Red Duster website: Prince Line. (3) Forces Geneaology: RFA War Sepoy

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any red or blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

John Latter on July 20, 2010

A new tag: click to see all photos featuring Tugs.

John Latter on August 2, 2010

Commander Charles Herbert Lightoller DSC & Bar, RD, RNR (March 30, 1874 - December 8, 1952) was the second mate (second officer) on board the RMS Titanic, and the most senior officer to survive the disaster.

Click to see the connection between Charles Lightoller of the Titanic and the Spanish Prince blockship of Dover Harbour (photo shows Lightoller's old home at 8 East Cliff, Marine Parade, Dover).

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on July 4, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2010/07/01 16:21:55
    • Exposure: 0.002s (1/500)
    • Focal Length: 200.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/5.600
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash