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The Gantocks

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The Gantocks off Dunoon, and the Cloch Lighthouse over the Clyde, 2006, © http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/4827
The Gantocks off Dunoon, and the
Cloch Lighthouse over the Clyde
© Thomas Nugent

The Gantocks is a small cluster of rocks which lies at the mouth of West Bay, south of Dunoon in the Firth of Clyde, and is marked by an illuminated beacon which was built c. 1886. The beacon is partnered by the Cloch Lighthouse located on Cloch Point to the east, and the two were deliberately designed to have significantly different characters to avoid confusion. The character of a lighthouse or beacon describes the colour of the light, and the timing of its light and dark periods.

The Gantocks beacon tower has a height of 44 feet, with the focal plane of the light at 39 feet. The light is red, and flashes once every 6 seconds, with a range 6 nautical miles.


Gantocks Beacon, 2007
Gantocks Beacon
© Robbie Livingstone

The Gantocks were a significant hazard to navigation until marked by their beacon, with a number of vessels being lost on the rocks, even in daylight.

September 5 (or possibly 2), 1854, at full speed, and while in the pilot's charge, the paddle steamship Eclipse (104 tons gross) ran into the rocks in clear daylight and was wrecked. All crew and passengers were saved.

February 25, 1874, records the immediate sinking of a small, unnamed steam lighter laden with guano, after striking the rocks during the night.

A reference from Dive Scotland (publication) dating to 1984, indicates that the possibility that this is the site of a wrecked midget submarine, with a similar wreck being reported off Cloch Point.

One of the biggest casualties of the Gantocks was the MV Akka, built in Gothenburg in 1942. On April 9, 1956, she was heading north up the Firth of Clyde, heading for Glasgow and laden with iron ore. The Skipper called for port helm to avoid the Gantocks but the vessel refused to answer and hit the edge of the rocks, causing a major split in the hull - the ship went down to the east of the rocks with the loss of three lives. The upperworks, masts, and derricks of the wreck were all visible above the water, particularly at low tide, and were considered to be a hazard to navigation. The hazard was reduced when explosives were used to remove the exposed parts, and the position of the underwater remains marked by an east cardinal marker.

A more well-known victim of the Gantocks was the Paddle Steamer (PS) Waverley on July 15, 1977. Approaching Dunoon, the steamer grounded on the rocks and was extensively damaged, so badly that she came close to being declared a constructive total loss. She survived the grounding, but her future continued to remain at equal, if not more, risk due to the resultant loss of revenue, at a time when the Clyde was being deserted by its former patrons, flocking abroad on cheap package holidays. Only the year before, 1976, she had lost her local authority funding, and was suffering problems with her boilers and paddles.

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