On April 14, 1912, the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic hit an iceberg, split in two and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. While this may be the most famous shipwreck in history, an estimated 3 million more vessels lie in ruins on the ocean floor. Some of these ships met tragic endings. Others were retired from service and sunk with good intentions or left abandoned on beaches. Though it’s been long since they’ve traveled the seas, these 20 shipwrecks are among the most haunting in the world.
The Corpach Wreck was originally known as the MV Dayspring. The fishing boat was built in 1975 and decommissioned around the year 2000, when it was anchored near Fort William, Scotland. Eleven years later, a violent storm ripped it from its mooring. The vessel drifted to the village of Corpach, where it rests on the beach today, stuck in time.
As the rumor goes, Dimitrios was once used to smuggle cigarettes between Turkey and Italy. The ship made an emergency docking in Gythio, Greece, because the captain was ill. Due to alleged financial obstacles, Dimitrios was left adrift and declared unsafe in 1981. The sea carried the now-famous freighter to its permanent home ashore on picturesque Valtaki Beach.
The Eduard Bohlen was a German-built cargo ship. In 1909, it sailed into a thick fog and wrecked at Conception Bay on the coast of Namibia, home to some of the most mysterious places on earth. It currently exists among the desert sands of the Skeleton Coast with several thousand other ill-fated vessels.
This large ship was built in Norway in 1912 and used for whaling. In 1981, Garðar BA 64 was deemed unsafe for service and left to rust on a beach in Skápadalur Valley.
The Shoyo Maru was built in 1969 in Imabari, Japan. It was later renamed Markus, and then Giannis D. The ship’s final excursion began in Rijeka, Yugoslavia, in 1983, transporting lumber. The crew abandoned ship early morning on April 19 after the vessel veered off course and struck Sha’ab Abu Nuhas, one of the world’s most dazzling coral reefs. Giannis D remained there for several weeks before a storm broke it in two and sank it to the bottom of the Red Sea.
Rumor has it Hilma Hooker was used to smuggle marijuana. In 1984, the ship lost power on a voyage off the coast of Bonaire, a gorgeous island you’ve likely never heard of before. Hilma Hooker was towed to a pier on the island, where it was searched and seized. Once it was no longer needed as evidence, it was sunk and is now used as a dive site.
The Mediterranean Sky was built in England in 1952. It maintained service as a cruise liner for more than 40 years until its last voyage from Brindisi, Italy, to Patras, Greece. A deserted Mediterranean Sky took on water in Eleusis Bay for three years before it was towed to a shallow area. In 2003, it fell on its side and half of the wreck was submerged.
The MV Panagiotis is one of the world’s most famous shipwrecks. As the story goes, in 1980, the freighter was carrying contraband cigarettes from Turkey when a storm forced it aground white sands off the coast of Zakynthos, Greece. The crew was being pursued by the navy for smuggling, so it abandoned the ship. The cove, called Navagio (Greek for “shipwreck”), is now a popular tourist attraction and has one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
The MV Salem Express was a passenger ferry that collided with a reef off the coast of Egypt in 1991. Water rushed onboard through the damaged bow and the boat sank in minutes. It’s estimated that more than 460 people died and 180 survived.
There must not have been a red sky on this fateful night in 1928, because Pesuta sailed into a winter storm in the Hecate Strait, where it ran aground the shores of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia, Canada. Most of the vessel has eroded over time, but a portion of rotting timbers remains intact and the view is mesmerizing.
Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel bark built in 1890. It was traveling from Salina Cruz, Mexico, to Portland, Oregon, in the fall of 1906 when high seas and strong winds dragged the ship ashore on Clatsop Beach in Oregon. There were plans to rescue the ship, but after waiting out unfavorable weather for weeks on end, Peter Iredale got stuck in the sand. Some framework is all that exists today.
Wikimedia Commons/Courtesy of NOAA/Institute for
Exploration/University of Rhode Island
The sinking of the RMS Titanic is one of the most famous and deadliest of all time. The British passenger liner met its fate in 1912 after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. More than 1,500 people died and an estimated 705 were rescued. The deteriorating wreckage lies nearly 13,000 feet beneath the Atlantic Ocean, about 370 miles off the southeast coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
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Satil was a French missile battleship reportedly used by the Israeli army. In 1994, it was retired, sunk and repurposed as a training ground for divers in the Red Sea of Eilat, Israel. Animal-loving explorers can see a diverse group of fish here.
The SS Francisco Morazan served as a cargo ship until 1960 when it sailed through a devastating snowstorm and ran aground in Lake Michigan about 300 yards from the shore. Although the ship was in no immediate danger of sinking, it wasn’t salvageable. The captain, his pregnant wife and the crew were rescued the next morning, and the ship was abandoned.
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The SS Maheno was a hospital ship for New Zealand during World War I. When the war was over, it was returned to its owner to resume commercial service as a passenger liner. In 1935, it had been idle for almost four years when it was sold for scrap and towed, never making it to its final destination. It was later found on the beach.
The SS Thistlegorm was a Royal Navy ship that made just three successful trips before its demise. During World War II in 1941, the ship set sail from Glasgow, Scotland, to Alexandria, Egypt, but was bombed and sank into the Red Sea in less than a minute.
Sweepstakes was a schooner built in 1867 in Ontario, Canada, home to some of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Sweepstakes suffered damage after hitting a rock off Cove Island and was towed to Big Tub Harbor in 1885. It was beyond repair and sank that year. Today, the boat is very much intact and is only submerged in 20 feet of water, making it highly visible to passersby above.
The USS Kittiwake was a submarine rescue ship employed by the U.S. Navy. After nearly five decades of service, it was retired and docked in Virginia until 2009, when it was donated to the Cayman Islands and sunk as an artificial reef.
The USS Spiegel Grove was a dock landing ship used by the U.S. Navy. It was named after former President Rutherford B. Hayes’ home and estate, Spiegel Grove, in Fremont, Ohio. The wartime vessel was decommissioned in 1989, and in 2002 it was intentionally sunk in Key Largo, Florida, to create an artificial reef and recreational space for divers. The Florida Keys have the best snorkeling and swimming beaches, after all.
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