Ship Graveyards: Abandoned Ships, Boats and Shipyards

Forgotten Shipyards

(Images: donnamarijne, cc-sa-3.0; craigfinlay, cc-3.0)

In addition to rusting vessels both large and small, the decline of shipping in many parts of the world has rendered shipyards and docks partially redundant or completely derelict.  Some have been regenerated for modern commercial and residential use, while others are little more than silent reminders of their proud past.  Harland and Wolff in Belfast is famous for building the Titanic, and while the yard remains active, the original Drawing Office and slipway where the liner was built are long since abandoned.

(Images: Google Earth, Archiseek)

The famous wasteland is now at the heart of an exciting development called the Titanic Quarter, constructed around the restored slipways (Titanic’s sister ship Olympic was constructed alongside) and Drawing Office where the liners were designed.  Whether any of the original steam cranes that still exist at the yard will survive the redevelopment remains to be seen.  Find out more in our Titanic feature.

(Images: George Robinson, cc-sa-3.0; Ben Cooper, cc-nc-sa-3.0; Andrew Jameson, cc-sa-3.0)

The future is less certain for other abandoned shipyards and docks that linger on in dereliction.  In 1914 British shipyards produced more tonnage than the rest of the world combined.  But by the late 20th century British shipbuilding was lucky to even be considered a shadow of its former self.  The abandoned dry docks at South Shields (top) and Glasgow yard building (centre) more accurately reflect the state of current shipbuilding in the UK, while the lower image of the Dry Dock Engine Works-Detroit Dry Dock Company Complex harks back to the once impressive maritime manufacturing industry of Detroit, Michigan, and underscores the hard times upon which that city has fallen.

(Images: J.M.W. Turner, public domain;

J.M.W. Turner’s famous painting “The Fighting Temeraire” is a symbolic work that depicts the end of an epoch.  It reflects the shift from sail to steam vessels, as the old warrior and veteran of the Battle of Trafalgar is towed down the River Thames from Chatham Docks to the breaker’s yard at Rotherhithe.  Turner gives HMS Temeraire an ethereal glow as the sun sets behind the ghostly sails of another sailing ship on the horizon.  If this painting bids farewell to wind powered vessels, the photographs above do so for much of our more modern shipping.  Today some of the Temeraire’s timbers have been refashioned into a communion table and two bishop’s chairs at the Church of St Mary, Rotherhithe.

If you enjoyed this article, click the thumbnail below (by Wollex) to explore one of the most spectacular shipwrecks around (SS American Star) in our Abandoned Mega-Machines feature.



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