Whitby Dive Site


The mysterious sinking of the Admiral Von Tromp

On Saltwick Bay near Whitby lies a wreck which many people stand and stare at. Many a tourist will ask the name of the stricken vessel? That's easy - its a wrecked trawler named the Admiral Von Tromp which foundered In October 1976. The curious will then ask how it got wrecked - that's more difficult to answer - it is still a mystery which will never be fully solved. The one man who could have solved the riddle died in the water that day.

At 1am the Skipper Frankie Taal set off from Scarborough Harbour. Mr Walter Sheader,(10 Longwestgate) Pierman on the West Pier helped cast them off. He stated that everything seemed normal and that the crew were definitely not drunk(if they had been the whole thing may have been easier to explain). Frankie Taal set a course for the Barnacle Bank fishing grounds - 45 miles NNE of Scarborough. He then had a cup of coffee then came back to check again on John Addison. Everything seemed normal and he went to bed leaving Addison on the wheel - he was an experienced man on the wheel.

Then skipper Frankie Taal was woken as the vessel was bumping and heeling. Crew member John Marton thought the boat had been run down - it simply didn't enter his mind that the boat could have gone on the rocks. The boat was heeling over off Black Nab on Saltwick Bay. The skipper was incredulous and asked Addison "What the hell are you doing!". He simply looked back in stunned silence.

How exactly did a modern boat with all the navigational aids run aground on Saltwick Bay. The weather wasn't bad and they had enough fuel? It was foggy but that shouldn't be a problem as they were not heading anywhere near the coastline. Captain Abbey from the coastguard even charted the boats course and when it sank it was heading due west. That was 90 degrees off course. The boat had been heading straight towards some of the worst rocks on the coast!

Strangest of all was the testimony of a senior nautical surveyor at the inquest. He stated that the boat if left to its devices would not have gone onto the rocks. It really was driven onto the rocks by a deliberate act.

Frankie Taal made valiant attempts to save the boat. They all put their lifejacket's on and then he tried to anchor the boat. Then the vessel turned broadside and it then started to fill with water. He had already sent out a mayday - having to get John Addison out of the way - who was still looking stunned and was powerless to act. The boat was now sinking in thick fog, with a heavy swell breaking on the stern.

The rescue proved very problematic. The boat was heeling over. Frankie Taal ordered the crew to hang onto the starboard side but the seas were too heavy. They instead went back into the wheelhouse. They stayed here for an hour. The wheelhouse slowly filled with water and in the end their heads were banging on the ceiling. In the end they had to leave through an open window - Skipper Taal was last out. Addison was already dead at this stage - drowned in the wheelhouse.

The rescue showed how difficult it is to save lives even in the modern age. The Whitby Lifeboat tried again and again to get near and failed. The Coxswain of the Lifeboat, Robert William Allen, even spoke to the skipper - who said that everyone was alive. The boat tried 7 times to get close. At one point the vessels even touched. Yet heavy seas and fog hampered the rescue. They could even have snatched the crew yet at that moment they were still imprisoned in the wheelhouse. Rocket lines were thrown by the Coastguard but again this failed because the crew were trapped inside the wheelhouse.

When they left the wheelhouse then problems were bound to occur. George Eves was on top of the wheelhouse yet a huge wave knocked him off. That was the last the skipper saw of him. He died drowned. Skipper, Taal was washed overboard and was eventually saved by the inshore Lifeboat. He drew their attention with his whistle on his Lifejacket. The Coastguard had thrown him a line but he did not have the strength to catch it. The other survivors were washed ashore.

It was a tragic loss with two men dead. Quite why it happened will never be explained - Addison died in the water. He drowned and pathology reports showed no signs of alcohol. He spoke to Alan Marton just after the accident happened just saying Oh Alan!" in a quiet apologetic voice. He seemed stunned and unable to act. Skipper Taal had to remove him from the wheel in order to try to rescue the boat.

The crew onboard the Admiral Von Tromp were:

  • Frankie Taal, 35 Princess Street, who had 23 years at sea. Saved by inshore
  • Alan Marton, mate, 22 Longwestgate. Survived
  • Mr Anthony Nicholson, engineer, 6 Avenue Road
  • Mr George Edward Eves, East Mount Flats, Scarborough,fish hand. Who drowned
  • Mr John 'Scotch Jack' Addison, Spreight Lane Steps, Drowned in the wheelhouse
  • His body was found on 25th October In Runswick Bay

    A Silver Medal was awarded to RNLI Lifeboat Coxswain Robert Allen. He had skillfully dropped anchor and tried to drift towards the trawler. A Bronze Medal to the Helmsman of the inshore Lifeboat, Richard Robinson, for taking Frankie Taal off Black Nab.


    Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre / Scarborough Evening News 11th November, 1976