Ships 2


Ships 3

Dakota Wheelman Made A Wrong Turn


By James Donahue

The steamship Dakota, one of a small fleet of vessels operating between England and New York for the old Guion Line, was somewhat of an oddity in its day.

The 400-foot-long Dakota and her sister ship, the Montana, were experimental vessels, both built with uniquely styled hulls and equipped with new and radically designed engines that their owners hoped would make them competitors for the Blue Riband, the coveted prize for being the fastest steamship to cross the Atlantic.

Both steamers were flops and thus somewhat of an embarrassment to the owners. When the Dakota wrecked on the rocks off Anglesey, N. Wales, on May 9, 1877, the “disaster” was considered more of a benefit than a loss.

Whether by coincidence or perhaps by design, the Montana foundered at about the same place three years later.

The loss of the Dakota was caused by a foolish blunder on the part of the fourth officer and the wheelman as the steamer was beginning a journey from Liverpool to America. When abreast of the Port Lynas light, the officer gave the order to port the helm, which should have turned the ship into the open sea. For some unexplained reason the wheelman turned to starboard instead, steering the ship directly into the rocks.

The ship remained stranded long enough to give the Bull Bay lifeboat Elenor time to rescue all 109 passengers and much of the ship’s cargo. When it sank, the iron hull broke into three parts which are still a popular visiting spot for sport divers.

The Dakota was commanded by a Captain J. Price on the day it was lost. Built in 1873, the ship was only four years old when it sank. Her cargo included cases of wine and brandy, sardines, books, machinery, musical instruments, medicine, tin ingots, tin plates, perfume, leather saddles and earthenware.