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The mystery surrounding the wreck of The Admiral Van Tromp at Saltwick Bay

One of my favourite places to go fossil hunting, if I get a few days off by the coast is Saltwick Bay. After the walk down the cliffside path from Whitby Holiday Park, you end up on a wonderful beach with two distinctive hard rock outcrops – Black Nab and Saltwick Nab.

If you turn right and follow the Bay around to Black Nab you will eventually come to a wreck of an old boat. This location with the wreck and the distinctive Nab is one of the most photographed locations on the Yorkshire Coast and one I have captured a number of times.

But where did this iconic wreck come from and how did it end up at Saltwick Bay?

The boat is the Admiral Van Tromp – a trawler from Scarborough. The mystery is how it ended so off course near Whitby.

The vessel actually sank on 30th September 1976. Its Captain Frankie Taal and his crew had set off from Scarborough in the early hours of the morning, their destination the Barnacle Bank fishing grounds 45 North East of the town. Once the Captain set the ships course, he left a senior crewman John Addyson in charge with a cup of coffee and went to bed.

The vessel on the day it sank courtesy of Fishing News

The Captain awoke to find the ship banging into rocks, the location near Black Nab, which is infamous locally for having one of the worst reefs on the Yorkshire coast. The rocks at Black Nab were 90 degrees off the course and the boats course had been set to head out to sea (not North up the coast).

Taal confronted Addyson apparently saying “what the hell are you doing?”, but Taal later said “Addyson seemed to be in shock, staring back vacantly and unable to speak”.

Fortunately Taal had the good sense to get the crew to put their life jackets on and send out a mayday. It was too late as he tried to anchor the boat, the vessel turned on its side and began to take on water.

Sadly Addyson drowned in the wheelhouse and his body eventually washed up in Runswick Bay. Another crewman named George Eves also died as he was washed overboard by a huge wave.

Captain Frankie Taal was also washed overboard and nearly drowned, but was fortunately rescued by the in-shore lifeboat. Leading two two RNLI members being awarded medals and recognised for rescuing the Captain. Two other crewmen survived being washed to shore.

Image is the RNLI Lifeboat crew involved with the rescue

The vessel eventually sank.

How the ship ended up so off course remains a mystery and with Addyson’s death we will never know how it came about? A Nautical surveyor who gave evidence at the wrecks inquest stated, “once the original course had been set, it would not have ended up on the rocks at Saltwick without human intervention”.

Addyson’s body showed no signs of alcohol or drugs at his post mortem, so the original theory of being drunk at the wheel doesn’t stack up. Was it deliberate? Many people think so, but we will never know.

This beautiful setting, where the wreck becomes visible at low tide is a stark reminder as to how unforgiving this beautiful coastline can be. But all the same it does make for a stunning photograph.


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