World Through The Lens


The northern part of the Fylde coast in Lancashire is notorious for its westerly gales and fierce storms and from as early as 1755 shipwrecks have been recorded up and down the coast. Many of these shipwrecks occurred close to Blackpool and the Norwegian ship ‘Abana’ was one of these.

The Abana was a three-masted barque of some 1200 tons and was built at St John's Newfoundland in 1874. Her Captain was Adolph B. Danielsen and the crew included Norwegians and Swedes. The Abana had left Liverpool carrying 500 tons of ballast and was bound for Florida in the US to collect a cargo of timber.

abana ship

On the 22nd December 1894, just three days before Christmas the ship was caught in one of the worst storms recorded on the Fylde coast and it’s believed that the crew mistook the recently built Blackpool Tower for a lighthouse. At the time, the tide at Fleetwood rose 10ft higher than expected and the air speed was recorded at 105mph, with gusts of 150mph being recorded at Holyhead.

The Abana was first seen in distress by lookouts situated on the North Pier around 2pm and with all her sails torn to shreds she was at the mercy of the storm. By the time the lifeboat, which had to be towed seven miles by six powerful horses from Blackpool to Bispham, had been launched the ship had drifted helplessly towards Little Bispham and had been grounded for several hours some 200 metres from the shore.

abana ship

The rescue took place during high tide under difficult circumstances with the gale still blowing fiercely and the sea rocked by huge waves but all of the crew were rescued safely, including the ship’s dog and cat. In thanks the captain donated the ships’ bell to Mr Robert Hindle of the Cleveleys Hotel and it was decided that it should go to St Andrews Church, Cleveleys where it still hangs today. The ship was never refloated and in typical Blackpool style the wreck was bought by a local syndicate who made souvenirs from the wood. What remains of the Abana is still trapped in the sands, which can still be seen at low tide, her ribs sticking out from the beach like an exposed 100-year-old skeleton.

wreck of the abana

On 31 January 2008, the Riverdance Ferry was travelling from Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland to Heysham when it ran into trouble off the coast of Fleetwood, Lancashire, being hit by a large freak wave and 70mph winds. The force of the wave caused the ferry’s cargo of containers and lorries to shift which in turn caused the RORO ferry to list helplessly until it was finally wrecked on the beach at Anchorsholme, very close to the remains of the Abana. The ferry had four passengers along with 19 crew members and a total of fourteen people were first airlifted by helicopter from the ferry in apalling conditions. The last nine people stayed on board trying to re-float the ferry but in the end they also had to be rescued. Two people suffered minor injuries and were taken to hospital but were discharged sometime later.

riverdance ship blackpool

A 400 metre exclusion zone was placed around the stricken ferry some days later after concern was voiced about the number of sight-seers that were getting very close to the stricten vessel.

It was thought that the ferry could be stranded on the beach for some time before salvage teams could remove it and two months on, and despite numerous attempts to re-float her, that is still the case.

UPDATE: It was decided at the beginning of April 2008 that the River Dance internal structure had become too badly damaged and she was declared a write-off by the Insurers. Which means she will broken up on the beach and taken away by road.

riverdance and abana wrecks

It seemed quite poignant to shoot the two shipwrecks together.

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