Probably the name “Creteblock” seems rather strange for a vessel, but it’s extremely accurate for one that was essentially just a concrete block.
Although concrete might at first seem to be a wholly impractical and rather cumbersome material to use in shipbuilding, in fact it makes a lot more sense than you might think. For boats over 7 meters long its often the cheapest and easiest material to employ. It doesn’t need a weatherproof coating and it won’t rust. Also a 10 meters, 8 ton displacement vessel made of wood or concrete will weigh the same.
During ther First World War steel stocks were low and the British Admiralty ordered some support vessels to be made of reiforced concrete. Two were built at Whitehall Shipyard in Whitby, but by the time they were completed in 1919 the war was over.
The MV Creteblock was built in Shoreham, West Sussex, in 1919, she was a steam-powered vessel and was used as a harbor tug by Smiths Dock, Teeside. The date of loss being variously described as either pre or post World War II, in 1935, or in 1947.
With all the useful material gradually removed, the vessel began deteriorating. On her last journey, in 1947, when it was being towed out to deep water out of Whitby harbour to be scuttled at sea, it started to take in water and had to be beached on the shallow wave-cut platform of Whitby Scar, near Saltwick Nab. It was later blown up to reduce the hazard to other vessels, though they didn’t do a very good job and many large pieces were left. Since 1947 lies battered and broken, crewed only by barnacles, limpets and mussels in her final resting place beneath Whitby’s imposing cliffs.
The wreck of The Creteblock on Whitby Scar is a familiar sight to anyone who has walked along the rocks to Saltwick Bay at low tide and the debris, easily accessible, is exposed every day. However, over the years, the ruins have degenerated. The process seems to be accelerating, and every time there’s a particularly stormy winter, Creteblock becomes a little more broken. One day, all that will remain is a pile of concrete rubble.
While visiting, be sure to observe the wave-cut platform for a fantastic array of ammonite fossils. Moreover, in the cliffs, you may be able to find small bits of fossilized tree fern which has formed the famous Whitby Jet, a gemstone used in jewelry.
Author’s notes: Care should be taken to check the tides before visiting this location.
There is the wreck of a more traditional vessel, the Rohilla, close by. It, too, is accessible at low tide, but this is another story!
Images from web – Google Research