SS Nornen on Berrow beach
When the tide goes out at Berrow, near Burnham-On-Sea, the bones of a long dead ship stick out of the sands as a stark reminder of a savage gale and a gallant rescue at the end of the last century. It all started during the first days of March 1897 when a howling south westerly gale swept up the Bristol Channel, bringing with it high seas, driving snow and sleet. Many ships soon found themselves in distress, among them the Norwegian barque SS Nornen which had tried out to ride out the storm in the lee of the Lundy Roads but had found her anchors dragging. She was being driven towards Berrow mud flats. The crew desperately tied to save her, but were fighting a losing cause. The heroic rescue of the ship’s crew The John Godfrey Morris lifeboatWhen the mists cleared on the morning of March 3, the crippled ship was spotted just off Gore Sands, her sails blown to rags by the gale. Down the ramp to her aid went the Burnham lifeboat, the John Godfrey Morris which had been on station at the town for the last ten years. Launched down the rails on the jetty, the lifeboat with its crew of ten oarsmen battled through high seas and winds to the SS Nornen. Despite the gale, the lifeboat managed to get alongside the helpless ship, just as she was being driven onto the sands. The ship’s crew of ten, together with their dog, were taken off by the lifeboat and landed safely at Burnham at three o’clock in the afternoon. The rescue is recorded on the honours board of rescues made by the three lifeboats at Burnham during the period from 1867 to 1930 and which today stands in the entrance to the Burnham RNLI Station. Wreck remains there today After the rescue, the sea pounded and smashed the ship and although attempts were made to lighten and refloat her, she was finally sold as a wreck. Today, when the tide goes out, children play amid the timbers of the ship wreck, which lies just north of St Mary’s Parish Church at Berrow, just south of Brean. But when the wind blows and the big seas start to roll in, it doesn’t take much imagination to see again that gallant rescue of not so long ago.
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