It is not often that the opportunity arises to become involved in the potential salvage of a workhorse and war veteran that ploughed some of the most hostile waters in the world for over 60 years. Solis is proud to be involved with this fascinating project and was fortunate to be able to carry out the inspection and survey in 2016 to establish the feasibility of the project. We remain closely connected and look forward to the day when the salvage work can commence.
The former British steam trawler ‘VIOLA’, also known under her later name of ‘DIAS’, was built in 1906 at Beverley in East Yorkshire for the Hellyer Steam Fishing Company of Hull. Today, accompanied by other old whalers, she lies rusting at Grytviken, a short distance from the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton, at the deserted whaling station on the remote sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.
Figure 1 VILOA’ / ‘DIAS’ alongside the abandoned whaling station of Grytviken, South Georgia
The story of ‘VIOLA’ is unique: a remarkable tale of fisheries, whaling, sealing, war and exploration during which she both weathered and witnessed many aspects of mankind’s twentieth century struggles on the sea. ‘VIOLA’ is now the oldest surviving former steam trawler in the world.
Figure 2 ‘VIOLA’ departing for the fishing grounds before WWI
‘VIOLA’ is the subject of a fundraising effort to finance a salvage operation to return her to her original home port of Hull. Following that operation there will be an extensive restoration project to install her as a permanent memorial to the merchant seamen lost during the Great War and to become part of the resurgence of Hull as Yorkshire’s maritime city.
This unique survivor spent the years before 1914, fishing in the North Sea spending more than 300 days a year on the grounds. That was followed by four years of strenuous Admiralty service as a minesweeper in WWI where she saw action on an almost daily basis, including involvement in the destruction of at least one German U Boat.
Following the armistice in 1918, ‘VIOLA’ was released by the navy and sold to Norwegian interests to resume fishing. During the 1920’s she was sold again and took up whaling in West Africa which then led to a transfer to South Georgia and the next chapter of her long life.
Figure 3 ‘VIOLA’ as the seal catcher ‘DIAS’ in South Georgia during 1959
‘VIOLA’ had been renamed ‘DIAS’ and worked as a seal catcher in South Georgia which involved the hunting of elephant seals around the coast. That brutal and demanding work continued throughout the seasons until the whaling industry finally ceased in the early 1970’s.
The years of hunting were also interspersed with work as a support ship for a number of Antarctic expeditions.
Laid to rest in the whaling station at Grytviken during the 1970’s, together with ‘PETREL’ and ‘ALBATROS’, the years went by and ‘VIOLA’ eventually sank alongside under the accumulation of melted snow which flooded her hull.
It was not until 1982 that the world became aware of events in South Georgia as the Falklands conflict ran its course with ‘VIOLA’ as a witness of events and as a survivor of the torches of the Argentinian scrap merchants.
Today, the ‘VIOLA’ Trust is raising funds with widespread support, in order to ensure that she is returned to her home port that she left in 1914. The goal of the Trust is to ensure that she completes her final voyage to enjoy a long and well earned retirement. Solis is grateful to be a sponsor of the Trust and will be assisting as far as possible to ensure that her trip home takes place as soon as it possibly can.
To learn more of the history of this remarkable vessel, try the links below and discover the efforts being made to secure her future. Also see if you can find the remarkable product that has been distilled in Yorkshire to raise funds for ‘VIOLA’ and that you might wish to consider as something very special indeed to go with your tonic.