The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

The loss of the Rifondo

The following two articles tell the story of the loss of the Rifondo, wrecked off the island of Swona in 1877. The only survivor was Nero, a dog belonging to Adolph Schiander, the captain of the ship.

Orkney Herald
26th September 1877

Total wreck of a vessel and the loss of the crew at Swona:--    On Friday week a strong gale of wind passed over the Orkneys. The gale commenced at 1 p.m. from WNW, veering round at 4 p.m. to NW, and getting stronger as night came down. About midnight – at the turn of the tide – it began to abate. During the early hours of Saturday morning the inhabitants of the island of Swona heard a barking dog, and on one of them, John Norquoy, going outside, he saw the sheep had removed from their pasture. Going in search of them, he observed a large brown dog at a place called the Taft Tail of Swona. On nearing him the dog whined, and lay on the ground, looking in the direction of the Tarf. Norquoy directed his eyes Taft wards, and observed the tops of masts of a vessel sunk on the west side of the Taft. He immediately informed his neighbours, when a boat was manned and proceeded to the scene of the wreck, but owing to the heavy sea, the boat was unable to approach so close as to enable the crew to make out her rig. On returning homewards they picked up a life buoy (cork) with the name ‘’Raifondo’’ or ‘’Refondo’’ painted thereon, and another name which they could not decipher. They also picked up a chest containing the flags of the vessel, by which they think the vessel is either Danish or Norwegian. With the exception of one water cask and parts of the timbers of a boat (supposed to belong to the wrecked vessel), nothing of the wreck has landed on Swona. The islanders are not aware what cargo the vessel is laden with, but suppose it must be one of heavy nature, as the vessel has not been swept away with the tide. She lies in twelve fathoms of water. Between the Barth Head and Burwick Ayre in the island of South Ronaldsay, there have come ashore the sail thwart of the boat, and a chest containing clothes and some letters written in a foreign language, one of which has the following address, ‘’ Peter Marthin Hansen, bark Refondo, Capt. A, Schjander, Norkjoping, Svverrige.’’ It is supposed that all hands have perished: but no information has been had of them. It is not expected that the vessel will remain long in her present position, for the tides in her vicinity are very strong and are daily becoming stronger.

Orkney Herald.
10th October 1877.

The wreck at Swona:-- The other week we recorded the total wreck of the Barque Rifondo on Swona, and the supposed loss of the crew. Mr Cowper, the Vice-Consul for Norway, has just received a letter from Mr Arndt Schiander, solicitor, Christiania, a brother of Mr Adolph Schiander, late captain of the unfortunate vessel. It seems the Rifondo had left Troon on the 12th September, for Christiania with coals. The captain had only been married last Christmas, and on the last voyage his wife accompanied him to Elsenor, from whence the ship proceeded to Greenock, and after discharging a cargo of deals, sailed for Troon. As Mr Schiander is anxious to have his brother’s body identified and interred, if it should be washed ashore, he has sent a portrait of him to Mr Cowper, and gives the following description of the deceased in his letter:--  “size a little more than middle, hair dark, thin whiskers, a gold ring on the fourth finger of the right hand, inside inscribed ‘’E.S. or ‘’Din Elinor’’. ‘’18th Oktbr. 1874.’’. Also having observed that his brothers dog named Nero had come ashore, he is anxious that the animal should be sent to Norway by any vessel going from Orkney to there. Any information that may be obtained, will at once be forwarded to Mr Cowper.