In September 1980, the British ship Derbyshire sailed into the eye of Typhoon Orchid and on into oblivion, taking all on board with her. The destructive power of a typhoon is awesome, but the Derbyshire was no small and ageing tramp, running red rust with a crew of deadbeats culled from the backwaters of the world. She was just four years old; a huge bulk carrier of 169,044 tons deadweight, 970 feet long and 145 feet in the beam, manned entirely by competent British seamen and maintained to the highest standards. She matched the best afloat in her day. How then could this great ship have disappeared so quickly and completely, with not even a faint cry for help, and leaving only a thin film of oil on the sea to mark her passing? The only good thing to come out of whatever appalling calamity over-whelmed the Derbyshire was that it turned the spotlight on a hitherto unrecognised phenomenon - the disappearing bulk carriers. Through her sudden loss it became apparent that we had entered an era of shipping casualties unprecedented outside the two world wars of this century. In the eighteen years since the loss of the Derbyshire more than 300 bulk carriers - many of them bigger than the legendary Titanic - have gone down, taking with them over 1,300 men. Even in this age of proliferating technology, on average, at least one of these ships is lost every month. Except for rare exceptions like the Derbyshire the loss of these juggernauts of the sea-lanes are seldom publicised outside the dealing rooms at Lloyd's. The circumstances attending the sinking of no two ships are exactly the same, but there are clear links common to all these deplorable maritime disasters. In this powerful book, Bernard Edwards, master mariner turned writer, reports on his investigations into the loss of a number of these giant bulk carriers and offers a new and controversial solution to the Derbyshire mystery, at the same time taking the lid off the on-going scandal of the disappearing bulk carriers.
Author: Bernard Edwards
Title: Return of the Coffin Ships: The Derbyshire Enigma
First Published by: Brick Tower Press
Date: 1 October 1998