Seven Famous Shipwrecks

How we wish the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean is one of it, but sorry to say that that ship is just fiction. However, here are ...

How we wish the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean is one of it, but sorry to say that that ship is just fiction. However, here are some famous ships that were actually built but tragically sank.

The Royal Mail Ship Titanic 

The RMS Titanic, or fondly known as just “Titanic”, may be the mother of all ships that everyone knows, thanks to James Cameron, the Director, and Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. Titanic was on her maiden voyage in 1912 when she struck an iceberg, killing 1,517 passengers. The wreck is located 370 miles southeast of the Newfoundland coast. She was found in 1985, still visible but deteriorating. 

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The MV Dona Paz 

Some of us may not have heard the name, but this passenger ferry went down as one of the world’s deadliest maritime disaster in peacetime history, claiming the lives of 4,386 people in December 1987. The earlier iteration of the Dona Paz was as a Japanese ferry, called Himeyuri Maru, which was designed to have a capacity of only 608 people. As the Dona Paz sailed between Manila and the outlying islands, she was hit by oil tanker MT Vector and caught fire. Both ships went down in the shark-infested Tablas Straight. Rescuers did not arrive until eight hours, causing the death toll to climb. The Dona Paz now rests 545 metres underwater and has come to be known as Asia’s Titanic.


The MV Le Joola 

Like the Dona Paz, the Le Joola had a past life as a ferry owned and operated by the armed forces of Senegal. When she went down due to the rough sea and winds, some 2,000 passengers were on board, three times the ship’s capacity. The exact number of casualties is unknown because many of the passengers were not ticket holders. The Le Joola goes down in history as the second worst peacetime maritime disaster in history, after the Dona Paz.

The Vasa 

The giant warship Vasa was intended as the flagship of Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus’s Navy, but it never made it to Poland to help the King fight the war. Ironically enough, the Vasa foundered and sank on her maiden voyage in 1628, just outside the habour of Stockholm. It is believed today that the ship was poorly designed and had too high a centre of gravity. She remained on the bottom of the sea until she was raised in 1961 and moved to a museum at the Vasa Shipyard. 29 million people have flocked to see her since, making her the world’s most visited shipwreck.

The USS Arizona 

America’s most famous and visited shipwreck is a Pennsylvania class battleship. The Arizona was sunk during the Japanese surprise attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941. A total of 1,117 US Navy personnel died when the Arizona sank. The ship’s sinking was caused by a massive explosion probably in the powder magazine that powered her big guns. A floating memorial now marks the site of the Arizona.

The Royal Mail Ship Lusitania 

RMS Lusitania is the world’s second most famous sunken liner after the Titanic. She became well known in 1915 when the German submarine U-20 fired a torpedo into her, 11 miles off the coast of Ireland in the Celtic Sea, during World War I, killing 1,198 people. Many historians believe the sinking of the Lusitania helped propel America’s entry into World War 1. The liner was carrying four million rounds of rifle ammunition, which would have been used to kill German soldiers.

The Bismarck 

Launched in August 1940, the Bismarck was only one of two full-sized German battleships launched during World War II. She was badly damaged in attacks by Fairey Swordfish, a kind of obsolete British torpedo bomber, and was scuttled by her crew in May 1941 to prevent Britain’s Royal Navy from seizing her. Her remains were discovered by Dr. Robert Ballard, the same man who discovered Titanic in 1989. 


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