The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Star of Dundee

On 5 March 1834, the Star of Dundee, a schooner, was seen drifting helplessly towards the cliffs at the Black Craig.

Locals knew there was no way of saving the ship but they stood on the cliff-top and tried to throw ropes to the survivors. The sea was so wild, and the wind so severe, that the onlookers watched the ship break up in front of their eyes – there appeared to be no survivors.

Caves below the Black Craig

Four days later, a man was seen on the top of the cliff waving his hands. He was the sole survivor of the tragedy.

He told how he had been washed into a cave along with two pillows, some red herring, a tin can and some biscuits, all of which had come from the ship. A piece of the wrecked ship had partially blocked off the entrance to the cave forming a door, which prevented the sea from coming in and washing him away.

He survived by eating the biscuits and herring; the tin can was used to collect fresh water that was dripping down the sides of the cave, and the pillow afforded a little bit of comfort to rest on. One pillow he pulled apart so he could line his boots with the feathers to help keep him warm.

When the wind subsided he managed to swim out of the cave and make his way up the cliff. He was given a set of clothes by the islanders and was put on another ship to get home.

The cave is known locally as Willie's Hole or Johnston's Cave.