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Iona II

Location: Lundy, North Devon
Age / period: post medieval (1864)
List entry number: 1000051
Reason for designation: historical significance

Wreck history and loss

The Iona II was built in 1863 at Govan as a fast ferry to ply the Clyde between Glasgow and Ardrishaig. She was exceptionally well fitted out: and the specially designed twin cylinder engines were oscillating and fitted with tubular boilers, superheaters and every well-tried improvement. She had luxury passenger accommodation, a 75ft dining room and 180ft saloon with velvet sofas. She reputedly gave a top speed of 24 knots.

She was soon acquired as a blockade runner by Charles Hopkins Boster of Richmond, Virginia, allegedly to run guns and supplies for the Confederate Forces in the American Civil War and it is believed she was stripped out for this clandestine voyage.

In 1864, she was en route to Kingston, Jamaica via Madeira from the Clyde, Scotland with an undisclosed cargo and a crew of 40. It is probable that she was running without lights in dense fog to avoid detection and foundered one mile east of Lundy Island, North Devon on this, her first transatlantic voyage.

The masts of the wreck showed at low water and a diving bell was used in her salvage.

Iona II Paddle Wheel
Paddle wheel debris with paddle shaft above © Wessex Archaeology

Discovery and investigation

The site was discovered accidentally in 1976 during a diving excursion. Following partial excavation from the stern to the aft coal bunkers, the site was designated in 1989.

The hull of the Iona II is complete up to the turn of the bilge for all of its length and part of the port side adjacent to the engine room survives to a height of 2m (about 0.5m above the waterline).

The hull plating is reinforced with light angle-iron frames which are doubled in the area of the boilers and engine room and three of the four boilers are in reasonable condition with manholes and fireboxes preserved, which run fore and aft in pairs. One boiler is split vertically on the starboard side.

The bases for both smoke stacks survive, one in situ, the other lying nearby on the seabed, together with some upper funnel sections. The crankshaft runs across the ship and is complete with paddle-wheel hub at one end; the other is now lying at an angle having broken off. The two oscillating pistons and the valve gear survive intact and are still connected to the crankshaft.

Both paddle wheels are disarticulated but appear to be complete with spokes and complex feathering mechanism, although without the wooden blades.


Some finds were deposited in the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Greenock, including stoneware jars and lid and a bayonet fit jar top has also been recovered from the wreck. Others items are in private possession.

Further work

Following a survey by Potters Bar Sub-Aqua club in 1990, the site has been periodically assessed by the Government's archaeological contractor who has reported clear evidence of illegal diving and damage. The surviving hull is still evident but with corrosion along the upper edges of the bulkheads. The boilers, pistons and valves seemed in a stable condition, but parts of the crankshafts had collapsed.

In 2002 the Malvern Archaeological Diving Unit (MADU) carried out a survey of the site and the site was also visited by the Government's archaeological contractor who undertook a comprehensive side scan survey. The outline of the iron hull to the turn of the bilges from stem to stern with the boilers and cylinders were noted to be still in place but the two paddle wheels are no longer in situ.

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