10 Most Famous Shipwrecks in History

Shipwrecks are fascinating because they tell true stories and, when discovered, they give us the chance to see a piece of the past, to witness things that were never seen or touched since the moment of the sinking and to solve mysteries that lasted for centuries.  Telling stories of disasters, sufferance and death, giving us the opportunity to experience the past as we only imagined it, and to feel the excitement of a treasure hunt, the most famous shipwrecks in history are among the humanity’s greatest possessions.

1. Titanic


The most famous shipwreck of all is, without a doubt, the unlucky Titanic, which sank during its maiden voyage, in 1912. Qualified as indestructible, it could not oppose the force of nature and thus, when hitting a large iceberg on April 14, it went under, taking 1517 men, women and children with it. The wreck was only discovered in 1985, after a long search.

2.  Andrea Doria

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The Beautiful Andrea Doria was launched at water back in 1951. It was a luxury ship, where 1,241 passengers could be accommodated in excellent conditions. The accident that brought it an unwanted fame happened in1956, on July 25, when Andrea Doria was navigating through dense fog. Visibility being highly reduced, it was impossible for the members of the crew to see what was in front of them and thus, in a tragic moment, the ship collided with a Swedish freighter, Stockholm. Both vessels were critically damaged but while the Andrea Doria started sinking, the Stockholm remained above water. The messages went on all night long, describing each moment o this ongoing maritime disaster: “We are bending impossible to put lifeboats at sea send immediate assistance” stated one of them. However, almost all passengers were saved.

3. RMS Rhone


This historic shipwreck lies on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, in the region of the British Virgin Islands. It was sunk by a hurricane back in 1867 and it was broken in 2 pieces. The Rhone is today offering great adventures to bold divers and it is one of the most famous shipwrecks in the world for this very reason.

4. General Slocum


The paddle steamer General Slocum burnt in 1904 in New York,, taking the lives of a thousand people during the fire that was possibly started by a cigarette. The poor victims, of whom the most were women and children (who were unable to swim), were heading that day to a church picnic. Today, the fate of the wreck is uncertain, as some people believe that the remainings of the ship were transformed into a barge, which sank in a storm some years later, while others claim that it was dynamited.

5.  Mary Rose

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The story of Mary Rose began some 500 years ago, when she was built to be “the fairest flower of all the ships that ever sailed”, in the words of King Henry VIII. Years later, in 1545, after having faced 3 wars and being enlarged and improved, the ship was ready to meet the French army on the Isle of Wight. Tragically, she never got to see the war, as it sank in 40 feet of water, when the lower deck started to inundate.  An estimated 700 people lost their lives. Even though the position of the shipwreck was known since 1836, it was only in 1970 that the search for the disappeared Mary Rose ended in success. In 1982, the shipwreck was finally raised from the water and exposed in Portsmouth Dockyard.

6. Lusitania

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Beautifully nicknamed “the greyhound of the seas” was the ocean liner Lusitania, which sank in 1915, in one of the most catastrophic maritime incidents of all time. In May 7,Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine. The ship sank in less than half an hour and 1,198 people, including women and children, lost their lives. The shipwreck was discovered in 1935 and since then, various studies were effectuated in order to determine what the cause of a second hole was and why the ship sank so fast.

7. Bismarck


Bismarck was an awesome war ship, which was described even by enemies as “a masterpiece of naval construction “. However,  the life of this ship was short , as it sank few month  after having been launched for the first time. In May 1941, Bismark was attacked by British forces. This is how admiral Sir John Tovey described the resistance of Bismark: “The Bismarck had put up a most gallant fight against impossible odds,worthy of the old days of the Imperial German Navy, and she went down with her colours still flying.” 2,000 men went down with their ship .In 1989, the shipwreck was found, at a depth of 4,700 meters. The Nazi swastika are still on the deck and, after 70 years on the bottom of the ocean, Bismarck is still pointing guns at now long gone enemies.

8. Edmund Fitzgerald


In 1975, Edmund Fitzgerald  was crossing Lake Superior, heading to Zug Island, not far from Detroit. The massive cargo had won many distinctions and held many records for its size and weight. However, size and weight were of no importance when the ship needed to continue its trip against nature’s will: After trying to resist powerful wind and 10 meter waves during a strong storm, the ship finally lost the battle, and went down, not even having the chance to call for help. The entire crew , consisting in 27 men joined the ship and was lost on the bottom of the ocean as well.

9. HMS Victory


HMS Victory mysteriously disappeared during a storm, in 1744, and was considered lost until the Odyssey Marine Exploration finally found it. The pride of the British Navy, the HMS Victory, was carrying 1000 people on board, among whom 100 were midshipmen, the children of England’s aristocratic families who were on board of a ship for the first time. The ship was apparently also carrying gold and silver and its disappearance gave birth to a mystery that lasted until its discovery, in 2008. So far, only 2 cannon and 2 bricks were recovered from the shipwreck, so there are much more exciting things to discover.

10. SS Republic



The SS Republic, a side-wheel steamship that activated in the Civil war, sank in 1865. At the time, it was carrying a treasure of gold and silver coins. The ship went down after encountering a powerful hurricane, against which it did not stand a chance. The passengers survived, fortunately, but the shipwreck was lost for 140 years. In 2003,  the above mentioned Odyssey Marine Exploration discovered it  at a depth of 518 meters. It was carrying indeed a treasure: 51,000 U.S. gold and silver coins(worth as much as 180,000,000$, according to National Geographic) and numerous, priceless artifacts were recovered from the wreck .


sources and photo credits:

Shipwreck Expo, Wreck Site, Odyssey Marine Exploration

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