Blackpool coast is best known for its sandy beach, deck chairs and donkey rides, but in the last 250 years, over 20 ships have fallen foul of the area and the Riverdance is only the most recent in a long line of vessels to be undone by the treacherous waters.
As early as the mid 1700's ships were left stranded, much to the delight of local residents who would often help themselves to the cargo, hoping to avoid arrest as looters. The first recorded wreck was The Travers, which was lost in 1755, along with its cargo of lace and since then over 20 ships have been undone by the deceptively dangerous waters around blackpool. While some of the ships managed to be refloated days after running aground, others, such as the Abana, Foudroyant and, more recently, the Riverdance were dismantled where they lay.
The Abana The Norwegian ship, The Abana had barely begun her voyage to Florida before it was caught up in a storm so severe that locals feared it would blow the newly constructed Blackpool tower over. She was spotted off the coast of Blackpool, near the North Pier, with her sails in tatters and over a 2 hour period she drifted to Little Bispham where she eventually ran aground. Happily, the lifeboat arrived in time to save the entire crew of 17, along with the ship's dog. The crew and pooch were transported to the Red Lion Inn, where they could rest and recuperate. As a thank you to the Cleveleys Hotel, who originally sounded the alarm, The Abana's ship's bell was presented to them. It was later passed on to St Andrew's church in Clevely's where it can still be seen. The Abana's remains are still celarly visible on the beach at Little Bispham, just a few hundred yards from where the Riverdance washed ashore.
The HMS Foudroyant The Foudroyant was Nelson's flagship from 1799 until 1801 and later became a tourist attraction, touring the costal towns of England, raising funds. She ran aground in 1897 after breaking her anchor during a hurricane while anchored off the coast of Blackpool. After narrowly missing the North Pier (A fate which the Norweigien ship, The Sirene had already suffered.) it washed ashore on the beach near Blackpool Tower. Again, the heroic work of the lifeboat crew saw that all 28 crew members (In its prime the Foudroyant would sail with over 700 crew!) were safely rescued. The ship was bought by local businessmen who made souvenirs from the wreckage of the vessel which Nelson called "the most perfect ship that ever swam on salt water". The remains of the Foudroyant was broken up during a storm in November of 1897 and swept into the Irish sea. The Riverdance In early 2008 the Riverdance, a ferry on its way to Heysham from Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland ran aground at Little Bispham where its crew of 23 were airlifted to safety, but unfortunately, the boat fared much worse. Even in the age of state of the art navigation systems, ships aren't immune to the waters around Blackpool and the Riverdance fell foul of a storm which saw 20 foot waves and winds in excess of 60mph buffet her before a "freak wave" left her listing at an estimated 60 degrees. The ship became a regular tourist attraction, with hundreds of people travelling to the edges of the exclusion zone to watch its dismantling for salvaging purposes.
And The Rest While The Abana, Foudroyant and Riverdance are the three most famous ships to run aground along Blackpool's coast, they are by no means the only vessels to go down and while the crews of the aforementioned ships were all rescued by the bravery of the local coast guard, there are many poor seamen and passengers who have not been so lucky. Fanny (1821), Favourite (1865) and Bessie Jones (1880) all suffered at the hands of Blackpool's Coastline, accounting for 13 deaths between them. It's also worth mentioning that the job of a lifeboat crew is a perilous profession as emphasised by the Mexico, which ran aground in Southport in 1886. All 12 member of crew were saved, but both the Southport and Lytham lifeboats tragically capsized, with only 2 members of the 29 crew surviving. With the Irish Sea's unpredictably and often violent nature, the odds are that the Riverdance won't be the last ship to wash ashore on the Blackpool coast line. If you’d like to know more about the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute or to make a donation towards equipment and training volunteer crews visit: http://www.rnli.org.uk