Fishing-disaster trawler found at bottom of fjord

A TRAWLER lost in one of Hull's worst fishing disasters has been found in the icy depths of an Icelandic fjord.

The sinking of the Ross Cleveland – with the loss of all but one crewman – in the bitter winter of 1968 was the third tragedy in as many weeks. In all 60 men died and Hull's Hessle Road fishing community was plunged into mourning.

It spurred relatives – principally Christine Jensen, who lost her older brother, the Ross Cleveland's skipper Phil Guy in the disaster, along with Lil Bilocca and Yvonne Blenkinsop – to mount a campaign for basic safety precautions for their men.

A wide-ranging inquiry later led to changes in regulations to prevent other losses on the same scale.

The ship became overladen with ice and sank as she sought shelter from a raging storm with other ships of the fishing fleet in Isafjordur in north-west Iceland in 1968. She now lies 300m down on the seabed, still in one piece.

Using local fishermen's knowledge the team were able to find and film her bow, bridge and foredeck using a mini-submarine in just three days.

Inside Out editor Ian Cundall, who led the BBC team which found the trawler, said the sinking was a "story that wouldn't go away" and that they'd been approached by relatives who wanted to see the last resting place of the men.

"We were very lucky,'' said Mr Cundall. "We located her very quickly using the local knowledge from a skipper who had snagged her nets on her. She's in very good condition, in an upright position on the seabed.

"What was interesting was that all the Icelanders knew about the Ross Cleveland. The guys in the salvage team were young children at the time but they all had memories of that night and it was quite touching when they saw the wreck.

"To them the Hull fishermen were heroes. They were guys who turned up with the money and the chocolates in their pockets. The tragedy affected them all.''

Only one man survived. Mate Harry Eddom made it to shore in a dinghy with two other men, both who died on the nightmare voyage, and staggered eight miles to safety. He has not spoken publicly about the tragedy for more than 30 years.

Relatives of crew who died on the ship have welcomed the discovery. Mike Swain, whose brother went down with his shipmates, said: "It has always been something that has been in my mind, it is like his last resting place really, and this is the nearest I will ever be to him.

"I'm glad I've seen it. It is something that was hard to bear really that they walked out fit and healthy and went to put fish on the nation's table and didn't come back."

n Inside Out is on BBC 1 next Monday at 7.30pm.