A Ship Too Far: Mystery Of The Derbyshire
Author: Dave Ramwell & Tim Madge
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
At 145 feet wide and almost 1000 feet long – dwarfing the Titanic – the Derbyshire, bound for Tokyo Bay with her cargo of iron ore, seemed more than capable of surviving anything the sea might throw at her. Yet, on September 10, 1980, some 200 miles off Japan, amid the waves of a typhoon she ought easily to have ridden out, the Derbyshire took a two-mile plunge that began so rapidly that not even a distress signal was sent out. So began another mystery of the sea – but one with a difference. The Derbyshire was – and remains – the biggest ship ever lost to the British ship register. The death toll – 44 – was large, too, given the times. Barely four years old, and supposedly well-found, she was one of six sister ships, all of which might have provided clues to her sudden disappearance. Yet the Government of the day refused to hold a formal public enquiry. The authors believe there remains overwhelming evidence that the Derbyshire suffered a catastrophic failure at ‘Frame 65’, a point in her huge length where ‘spinal’ girders were cut to make her easier to build – contrary to now lost original plans. In the massive waves of a China Sea hurricane this fatal alteration could have caused her to snap like a twig. In the years since she was lost one of her sisters sank, one was prematurely scrapped, and the three others suffered structural damage in the same – Frame 65 – area.
Despite the recent discovery of the wreck of the Derbyshire , and a subsequent, very belated, public enquiry which suggested the ship had suffered progressive hatch cover failure, this book remains an indictment of the builders, the owners and others. It uncovers the appalling record of bulk carriers, worldwide, which continue to sink at alarming rates, mostly due to commercial pressures.