70 years ago the Earl Thorfinn, on her round of the North Isles, was hit by a hurricane and had to run before the wind towards Aberdeen. Captain Hamish Flett and his crew coped with mountainous seas that smashed her steering gear and conditions that destroyed other vessels that day including the Stranraer-Larne ferry Princess Victoria.
How did the ship survive, and how has marine communication developed over the years to help in such situations? Prof. Tom Stevenson tells the story.
A painting of the Thorfinn in the storm was donated to the Westray Heritage Centre by Captain Hamish Flett. Another painting of the Thorfinn in those immense seas is in the Orkney Museum, donated by the artist’s sister, whose father-in-law was one of the passengers aboard.
The same storm combined with a high spring tide to overwhelm sea defences on both sides of the North Sea, with a major flood. It was in recent years the subject of a song by the Broadside Boys from Suffolk.
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