On the evening of 30th December 1979 the Ben Asdale, a freezer trawler, was off-loading mackerel onto a Russian factory ship in a force eight gale in Falmouth Bay.
She had just finished discharging her load when she cast off her stern line ready to move away however her rope fouled her rudder. With no response from the helm and the blizzard becoming more fierce the skipper Barty (Albert) Coe attempted to get the Russians to re-secure the stern but the force eight gale was now dragging both the Ben Asdale and the anchored Russian Ship. The Russians sent 2 officers to aid with repairing the steering however the bow line shortly parted and the Ben Asdale was now adrift and getting blown towards the rocks.
The crew let an anchor go but it just dragged along the seabed, still drifting towards Maenporth Beach a Mayday was sent however by this time the force eight gale was now a force ten, the waves were breaking over the ship so by this time she was completely out of control and had struck the rocks by Newporth Head.
The rescue helicopter was called for but due to the blizzard they soon found out that the hangar doors were frozen shut so had no way of getting the helicopter out.
A breeches buoy was rigged to the trawler (this was the last ever time this was used) but soon became useless when the ship lent to one side trapping all gear on board. Crew were throwing anything and everything over the side that could act as a liferaft to take them to safety, even themselves. By this time the rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose had arrived after getting the doors open and successfully winched eight of the crew members individually to safety. After a daring rescue by Coastguards and helicopter, 11 people in total were saved but sadly 2 Britons and 1 Russian lost their lives.
Parts of the wreck of the Ben Asdale can can still be seen above the waterline and is a popular feature of our safaris.
*Information and pictures courtesy of David Barnicoat.