On 22 November 1990 the 52 foot deep-water trawler FV Antares was sunk after it’s nets were snagged by the nuclear-powered submarine HMS Trenchant, off the coast of Arran. 

The Antares left its home port at Carradale with its four-men crew, on 19 November, to fish around the Firth of Clyde.  Each day it would unload its catch at Largs.  On 21 November the crew decided to fish the Arran Trench overnight.  The last known contact with the crew was at 10:30pm when the captain phoned his wife.  Nearby were two other trawlers fishing the Arran Trench, the Heroine and the Hercules III.

The Incident

At 02:17am the sonar of the HMS Trenchant, who had been in the process of simulating a mine laying operation, detected a vessel on the surface and turned to avoid the contact.  The crew of the submarine heard loud banging noises followed by further unusual noises.  The submarine surfaced to check out the area, finding the remains of a trawl net around the hull of the submarine.  Radio communication with the two fishing vessels was not answered.  They contacted the HMS Charybis, a Royal Navy frigate, which was taking part in the exercise, hunting for the submarine.  They responded that they had not noticed anything.  Thinking that they had caught the fishing nets of one of the two visable fishing vessels and seeing that they were both alright the HMS Trenchant continued on its mission.

HMS Trenchant

Between 8am and 9am the Secretary of the Clyde Fisherman’s Association, after hearing that a submarine had collided with a trawler’s fishing nets, began contacting all the ships that were known to be out at sea along with the ports to ensure that all the fishing vessels were accounted for.  Upon contacting the crews of the Heroine and Hercules III, he discovered that they had lost sight of the Antares, but thought that it had left the area.  When further investigation revealed that the Antares had not docked at any port a full scale search and rescue operation was launched by the Coast Guard with the Royal Navy frigate HMS Charybis being recalled to co-ordinate the search.  No evidence of the Antares could be found, with the exception of some fish boxes floating on the sea.  The following day, sonar contact was made with a new uncharted wreck on the seabed, which was quickly identified as the Antares.  She was raised to the surface and the bodies of three of the crew were recovered.  It was to be another year before the fourth crew member’s body was recovered in a trawler’s fishing net.

The Aftermath

The incident led to major changes in the way that the Royal Navy carries out its training exercises in areas where civilian vessels are likely to be present. The Antares was towed to Greenock where she was restored.  In March 1991 she set sail for the last time as she made her way to the Maritime Museum in Irvine.  In February 2008 the Antares was scrapped, with the permission of the victims’ relatives, as it had become too expensive to maintain.

The Crew of FV Antares

Skipper Jamie Russell, 33 from Carradale

Billy Martindale, 24 from Carradale

Dugald John Campbell, 20 from Carradale

Stewart Campbell, 29 from Campbeltown