Readers can find information about ten of the most famous shipwrecks in history on this list. Most of these did not result in a loss of lives, but a few, such as the sinking of the RMS Titanic and MS Estonia, tragically did. Some of the wrecks mentioned on this ship are easy to access, while others require special permits, guides, and advanced diving abilities. The MS Estonia, for example, is completely inaccessible for citizens of certain countries. 

RMS Titanic 

Location: the Atlantic Ocean, 400 miles from Newfoundland, Canada

Reason: Hit an iceberg near damaging watertight compartments

Der Untergang der Titantic by Willy Stöwer
Der Untergang der Titantic by Willy Stöwer

The Titanic is undoubtedly the most famous shipwreck in history. The ship was built in Ireland and was considered to be “unsinkable.” It sank in the North Atlantic Ocean during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City on April 14th, 1912. 1,517 people lost their lives. The ship was located in 1985 by a French-American expedition and numerous artifacts were removed by archeologists. Some companies have proposed plans to raise the ship from its seabed grave, at a depth of 13,000 feet underwater, but the wreck is incredibly fragile. Today, it is protected under the UNESCO convention and will still be remembered by future generations.

Fujikawa Maru

Location: Chuuk Lagoon, Federated States of Micronesia

Reason: Hit by a torpedo fired by the US submarine Permit

Part of The Fujikawa Maru Shipwreck in Chuuk Lagoon 
Part of The Fujikawa Maru Shipwreck in Chuuk Lagoon 

The Fujikawa Maru was 450 feet long and built in 1938. The ship was used to carry silk, flax, and more. The ship was converted into an aircraft ferry and hit by a torpedo in September of 1943. The ship was recommissioned and hit again. It sunk in Chuuk Lagoon, hitting the ocean floor and finding its final resting place. It is one of several wrecks within the lagoon. The wreckage has become one of the chief wreck diving sites for scuba divers around the world.

USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg

Location: Key West, Florida

Reason: To turn into an artificial reef

Part of the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg Shipwreck
Part of the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg Shipwreck

The large USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg (17,120 tons) sank in May of 2009 to serve as an artificial reef. The ship sits around 140 feet underwater. It originally served as a troop transport and missile-tracking ship during World War II. The reef was created in order to benefit the local economy. Today, an increase in scuba divers to the ship has led to studies about whether or not artificial reefs can decrease the pressure tourism places on natural reefs. According to NOAA, the conclusion was that the artificial reef did not decrease the pressure on natural reefs. 

Eduard Bohlen

Location: Namibia

Reason: Grounded on a beach from heavy fog (poor visibility)

The Shipwreck Eduard Bohlen on Namibia's coast
The Shipwreck Eduard Bohlen on Namibia’s coast

Credit: Anagoria

Despite being completely beached, this hard-to-see ship is located on a beach along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. Visitors need a special vehicle and guide to travel there—the shipwrecked on the fifth of September in 1909 during a heavy fog. The captain ran aground while on a voyage from Swakopmund to Table Bay. The ship was featured in several programs, including Wonders of the Universe, a 2011 television documentary series. 

MS World Discoverer

Location: Solomon Island

Reason: Hit an uncharted reef or rock under the ocean

Shipwreck of the MS World Discoverer
Shipwreck of the MS World Discoverer

Credit: Philjones828

This famous ship write is located around Solomon Island. The ship is half-submerged in the waters. It used to serve as a cruise ship before it collided with an uncharted coral reef in 2000. A passenger ship responded to the captain’s distress signal, and all the passengers were safely transported to land in a successful rescue. The ship was brought into Roderick Bay and left at a 20-degree tilt in order to keep it partially afloat. It has since been ransacked of goods and any valuable materials. Today, the tilt is closer to forty-six degrees. 

Peter Iredale

Location: Oregon, United States

Reason: Storm

peter iredale
The wreck of the Peter Iredale 

Credit: Charles Knowles

The Peter Iredale is a beautiful beached shipwreck located in Oregon. The ship was owned by the British company Iredale & Porter and sunk in 1906 when it was traveling from Santa Cruz on its way to Portland. A storm hit and sank the ship. Today, it is an incredibly popular tourist attraction and is one of the easiest-to-see shipwrecks of the Graveyard of the Pacific, an area that has resulted in more than 2,000 shipwrecks along the Pacific Coast. 

MS Estonia

Location: 22 nautical miles from the Finnish island of Utö

Reason: Water poured into the deck destabilizing and capsizing the ship

Model of the MS Estonia
Model of the MS Estonia

The MS Estonia was a cruise ship that was built in 1980 to use on the Estline Tallin-Stockholm route. The ship sank in the Baltic Sea on September 28th, 1994, claiming 852 lives. It is one of the worst maritime disasters of recent years. The ship’s poor cargo distribution caused listing and a bow door to separate from the rest of the ship. This meant that the decks flooded rapidly, and the power failed. Unfortunately, an emergency was not declared for ninety minutes.

Only 138 passengers and crew were rescued of the 989 onboard. Reports are still being issued about the disaster to this day. Thousands of tons of pebbles were dropped onto the site, and a treaty established in 1995 prohibits citizens from surrounding countries from approaching the wreck. 

Giannis D 

Location: Red Sea

Reason: Crashed into a coral reef

The Giannes D shipwreck
The Giannes D shipwreck

Credit: Wusel007 CC BY-SA 4.0

The Giannes D was built in Japan in 1969. It was initially named the “Shoyo Maru,” but as it was resold, it became the property of the Dumarc Shipping and Trading Corporation in Piraeus, Greece. The commerce ship’s final voyage took place in 1983. It was a freighter carrying lumber from Jeddah to Yemen. The ship ran aground, according to reports. The ship had drifted off course in the open water, according to The Red Sea Project, and “ran aground at full speed on the northwest edge of the Sha’ab Abu Nuhas Reef.”  The ship broke into three parts and is sitting about 10 meters underwater. 

Sweepstakes 

Location: Tobermory, Ontario

Reason: Sunk as too expensive to repair

The Sweepstakes submerged underwater
The Sweepstakes submerged underwater

Credit: The Sweepstakes Shipwreck, Serena Livingston

The Sweepstakes was built in 1867, weighed 218 gross tonnes, and was 119 feet long. The oldest shipwreck on the list was used to carry coal before it sustained expensive damage in 1885. The ship’s general size made it too expensive to repair. Rather than fix or salvage the ship, the decision was made to strip it of everything valuable and sink it. The shipwreck is so well-known that it’s easy to book a tour to visit the wreck in the harbor. It’s also a popular location with divers and marine archaeologists. 

German High Seas Fleet

Location: Orkney Islands, Scotland

Reason: Beached or sunk by the Royal Navy

A portion of one ship that remains above water of the German High Seas Fleet
A portion of one ship that remains above water of the German High Seas Fleet

The German High Seas Fleet was scuttled at the Royal Navy’s base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The main reason for the existence of the High Seas Fleet was to give assistance to the North Sea German naval bases and to keep German U-Boats operational. These warships were sunk after the First World War after the ships had been interned while the Armistice took place. The vessels were sunk on June 21, 1919. Some of the ships were beached, but fifty-two were sunk. Some wrecks were salvaged and towed away, but others remain popular dive sites. 

FAQs 

What is the most famous shipwreck?

Without a doubt, the wreck of the HMS Titanic is the most famous wreck in history. The ship sank in 1912 and wasn’t relocated until 1985. 

What is the deadliest shipwreck in history?

The deadliest shipwreck in history was the Wilhelm Gustloff. Nine thousand people lost their lives aboard this ocean liner when torpedoed by a Soviet submarine in 1945. 

What ship sank after the Titanic?

The sister ship of the Titanic, the Birttanic, sank in 1916 in the Aegean Sea, resulting in the loss of thirty lives. One thousand others were rescued from the wreck. 

How many shipwrecks are there in the ocean?

Although it is difficult to estimate accurately, it is believed that there are more than 3 million shipwrecks in the ocean worldwide.

What happens to bodies in shipwrecks?

Just like marine animals that die at sea, they are decomposed by different types of sea life, until nothing is left behind. This is why bodies are never seen at shipwrecks.

What is the most famous unfound shipwreck?

Flor de la Mar, or Flor do Mar, is considered to be the most famous and most valuable shipwreck to still be uncovered by marine archeologists. It is believed to have many riches onboard.

Are there any shipwrecks in the Mariana Trench?

It is most likely that there have been a number of vessels finding their demise in the Mariana Trench. However, due to the sheer depth of the Marian Trench, around 36,000 ft, it is extremely difficult to search the Pacific Ocean floor for shipwrecks, and even harder to extract anything from them.

Are there any sunken pirate ships?

The Whydah, captained by Sam “Black Sam” Bellamy, is the most famous certified pirate ship to sink. It perished off the coast of Cape Cod in 1717 due to a heavy storm and carried a hefty collection of treasures and riches with it.