Both World Wars saw numerous shipping causalities in this area. In the First World War this was a favourite hunting ground of German U-boats which on occasion entered the area and attacked passing ships. Most of the wrecks which now litter the sea bed in the "graveyard of a thousand ships" are from this period. In the Second World War more ships went to the bottom of this "graveyard" not only because of submarine attacks but also because of the great minefield which stretched across St. Georges Channel from the Saltees to the coast of Devon. Many of these mines broke loose and exploded on impact with the rocks and lower cliffs of the Great Saltee. Evidence can still be seen today of these explosions from Sebber Bridge to Hell Hole.


List of shipwrecks off the Saltee Islands (PDF FILE)


The S.S. Idaho

The S.S. Idaho struck Coningbeg Rock on 1st June 1878.  She had left New York bound for Liverpool. with 63 passengers and 82 crew. Good order prevailed and all aboard reached the boats safely before the Idaho sank, 22 minutes after striking the rock. The only casualties were 54 horses. The survivors spent a cold night on the Saltees until they were rescued the next day. At an inquiry on 26/6/1878 the captain was censured for faulty navigation and maintaining speed.

The wreck was located in 1976. Its anchor was raised in 1988 and now adorns the bow of the Guillemot Museum Ship at Kilmore Quay.


Local Newspaper article 1st June 1878 (PDF FILE)




Coningmor Rock:

This is the larger of the two Coning Rocks, it can be seen as it lies above the water. The area is full of seals. The general depth is around 20 - 30m.


Coningbeg Rock:

The remains of a lighthouse foundations may be seen around the bottom as well as parts of an unknown wreck. Like it's larger namesake its prone to strong currents.



The S.S. Lennox was sunk when she was chased by a submarine onto rocks at the back of the Great Saltee. The wreck lays in 10 - 18m of water at the back of the Great Saltee parallel to the Collough Rocks.

Her crew of 45 were saved by the Kilmore lifeboat. Among her crew were 34 Chinese men, who sold their watches in local pubs and shops. Boiler lining bricks, marking the Lennox, are still found at the spot.



On a voyage from Cork to Fishguard with a cargo of Livestock the Ardmore was sunk on 12th November 1940 by a mine in the area off the Great Saltee Island. Major damage to the midships section indicates the ship sank almost immediately with the loss of all onboard




The SS Ardmore left Cork for Fishguard at approximately 20.00 Hours on the night of Monday 11th of November 1940. Research from intelligence documentation indicates that the Ardmore was last seen in Cobh as she proceeded from Cobh Harbour. She was logged  passing the Ballycotton look out post at 22.20 hours. She was then logged by the  Knockadoon Head look out post at 22.55 hours 



Nothing more was heard from the Ardmore until wreckage was spotted coming ashore on the 20th of November 1940 off St. David's Head in South Wales. Wreckage including dead animals was also washed up on the rocks of the Great Saltee.

German Military Archives indicate that there was no U- Boat activity within this area from the 11th to the 12th of November 1940.

It was concluded that the Ardmore and her crew of 24 were lost as a result of a mine explosion to her mid-section off the Great Saltee Islands, Co. Wexford between 24.00 hours and 04.00 hours on or about Tuesday morning the 12th of November 1940.



On June 21st 1942 the S.S. Lanabrone went aground on the Great Saltee at the ring.




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