Man's thank you mission to village 90 years after they helped shipwrecked grandfather; NORWEGIAN SAILOR LANDED ON BEACH AFTER ATLANTIC TRAGEDY.
THE grandson of a Norwegian sailor visited North Wales this week to find out more about the people who went to his aid after he was shipwrecked almost 90 years ago.
Oil rig worker Tor Markussen became curious when he found yellowed newspaper cuttings among his grandfather's belongings after he died.
Olaf Markussen was a deck hand on the sailing ship Fortuna which made regular trips between Liverpool and the Norwegian whaling station in South Georgia carrying coal and food.
The vessel left Liverpool on what turned out to be its last voyage on October 23 1927. The ageing, three-masted, iron-hulled vessel was manned by a Norwegian crew of 26 under the command of Captain Olav Larsen.
Five days later, some 10 miles off the Irish coast in the teeth of an Atlantic storm, an explosion happened in the crew quarters - an inquiry later found the blast may have been caused by coal gas igniting.
The resulting fire quickly spread throughout the ship and as the crew clambered into lifeboats it capsized and sank. One of the lifeboats was dragged down and four lives were lost.
"The chief steward was killed in the explosion and the ship sank four hours later," said Tor. "The crew clambered into two lifeboats but one was dragged down by the ship. There were nine people in the water and five were dragged into the other boat but four drowned."
The lifeboat was blown more than 100 miles by the strong wind. "The sailors saw a lighthouse and then, after 18 hours adrift, saw land and people waving at them and pointing where they should land," he said.
They rowed ashore at Gyrn Goch near Clynnog Fawr, Gwynedd. Tor said the crew were well looked after by the community until officials managed to arrange their return to Norway.
But until this week he knew little about what happened to them in North Wales. About 18 months ago the Daily Post featured an appeal to help Tor fill in the missing gaps in the story.
Brothers Richard and Thomas Roberts responded to the appeal after realising the boat landed close to the family farm. After e-mail correspondence, Tor this week travelled from Norway to North Wales to see where the sailors landed and the house where they were given clean, dry clothes, food and medical attention.
He said: "My grandfather got a job on a sailing vessel aged 14 after his father died and his mother could not support four children. He spent his entire life at sea but rarely spoke about the Fortuna. But he said they were shown great kindness by the Roberts family and the community.
"He died in 1962 when I was just 12. It was after he died I found the newspaper cuttings and decided to keep them and perhaps one day find out the story of what happened."
Tor said the internet had made his search for information easier and he had been able to source official reports and diary accounts of the incident. He added: "It was a dream at the start to see where the landing happened. I am glad to be here, it has closed a chapter."
Tor is now going to write up the complete story and post it online. He also plans to give a lecture on Fortuna to a seafaring group in Norway.
Tor with |brothers Richard and Thomas Roberts. His grandad Olaf Markussen (second row, far left) and the other survivors
Tor Markussen at the spot where his | grandad and 17 other crew members came ashore after the Fortuna (above) sank