The North Sea Pilot, a 19th century guide to navigation along the North East Coast issued by the Admiralty, refers to these rocks as the Red Cars or Salt Scars. It is tempting to suggest the name Redcar comes from this Red Cars but it is considered that Redcar is in fact a corruption of the Old Scandinavian read kjarr meaning a ‘red marsh’. Scar comes from an altogether different word sker meaning a rocky outcrop in the sea that is dry at low tide and from which we get the Scottish skerry and Gaelic sgeir.
This scar is the southern of a pair, named on the modern Ordnance Survey map as Redcar Rocks and Coatham Rocks. Salt Scar is regulated to the easternmost outcrop awash at the lowest spring tide. The rocks are a SSSI, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. They belong to the Redcar Mudstone Formation, a rock composed of calcareous shales, formed in the Lower Lias (or more commonly the Lower Jurassic) period between 200 and 175 million years ago. Redcar Mudstone contains the fossils known as Devil’s Toe-Nails which can be found in great numbers along the beach towards Marske.
The North Sea Pilot also mentions a proposal for a harbour of refuge in the gap between the two scars “to prevent the annual loss of life and property which takes place in Tees Bay”. There is a pair of navigation lights on the buildings of Redcar which have been strategically placed to act as a transit to guide the local fishermen safely on to the beach between the scars at high tide.
The scars have caused many ships and boats to come to grief. Even with modern technology they have retained their treacherous notoriety. Late into the night on 13th December 1953, the 5,250 ton Greek Steamer, Dimitris, ran into the end of this particular scar. She was carrying iron ore from Boma, North Africa to Middlesbrough and ended up a total loss. In heavy swell the 36 man crew were successfully rescued by the Redcar lifeboat and local fishing boats. Her boiler is still visible at low tide.