It is man’s desire to travel and explore the wide world that led him to build ships. Large, opulent cruise ships, the ubiquitous ferry, mail ships, and even military ships exude a dignity and grace as they set sail across the seas and oceans. Sometimes, however, these majestic vessels become fraught by the worst accidents one can imagine – shipwrecks. Here are 10 shipwrecks, tragedies that the world will not forget in a hurry.
1. RMS Titanic
The most famous shipwreck anywhere in the world has to be the Royal Mail Ship Titanic on the night of 14 April 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean. The construction and launch of the Titanic was a much hyped event – given that the ship was the largest and most opulent liner built at the time. The ship was touted to be unsinkable and the rich and mighty hankered to get on board on the liner’s maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. It is estimated that about 2,224 people were on board the RMS Titanic on this maiden voyage when the ship struck an iceberg at the dead of night and sunk killing about 1,500 people. Stories, plays, movies, books – the colossal tragedy of the Titanic has captured the imaginations and hearts of people across the world.
2. RMS Lusitania
The sinking of the Royal Mail Ship Lusitania is another famous wreck that the world recalls and speaks of in horror. The RMS Lusitania was a British ship on its way from New York in the USA to Liverpool in England. On 7 May, 1915, less than a year into World War I, a German U-boat torpedoed and sank the ocean liner killing about 1100 people of the 1900 on board. While it took the USA another couple of years to enter the war, the sinking of the Lusitania was a major factor in turning the tide of American sentiments against Germany.
3. MV Le Joola
The sinking of the MV Le Joola is termed the worst maritime disaster of Africa. In the early hours of September 26, 2009, Le Joola set sail from Ziguinchor in Senegal. The ship, bound for Dakar carried some 1863 passengers, while authorized to carry only about 580. Most of them did not hold tickets and slept on the deck making the vessel unstable. The ship ran into rough waters and strong winds about halfway (off the Gambian coast) killing all on board, except 64 survivors. Delayed rescue operations further compounded the magnitude of the disaster.
4. MV Doña Paz
The Doña Paz disaster killed about 4375 people off the Manila coast in the Philippines – one of the largest toll recorded in any shipwreck in history. The MV Dona Paz was owned by Sulpicio Lines and at the time of accident was carrying well over double the authorized 1500 passengers. The Doña Paz had set sail from Leyte Island to Manila, the Philippine capital, and on December 20, 1987, collided with an oil tanker, MT Vector, killing almost everyone on board. Despite evidence that the Doña Paz had an inordinately higher number of passengers and was responsible for the scale of disaster, official records blamed Vector for the disaster.
5. SS Sultana
The shipwreck of the SS Sultana on 27 April, 1865, went on to become the worst maritime disasters of the United States. Sultana was a side-wheeler steamboat that plied on the Mississippi River and exploded killing about 1,800 of the 2,427 passengers onboard. The steamer was on one of its regular voyages between New Orleans and St. Louis and after a stop at Vicksburg boarded about 2000 repatriated Union prisoners. On the way to its next stop at Cairo, Illinois, some miles away from Memphis one of the boilers exploded setting the ship ablaze. The tragedy was not widely reported at the time as it was overshadowed by the death of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln.
6. The Vasa
The disaster that took place and sunk the Swedish warship Vasa on its maiden voyage may have been an old one but it is well remembered and recalled due to the sheer beauty of the ship and for its association with Swedish wealth and power. On August 10, 1628, the Vasa set sail from Stockholm to Prussia. Within half-an-hour, and having sailed a mere 1400 yards, the ship sank killing 53 of the 150 people on board and sinking all the artillery and armament. Unstable design and frequent additions are blamed for the disaster. The remains of the ship are on display in Stockholm and have been viewed by millions of visitors.
7. Costa Concordia
The sinking of the Costa Concordia on January 13, 2012, was not a disaster at par with the others in terms of the causalities. Yet this shipwreck remains a memorable one due to the financial loss to the operator, Costa Crociere, due to the unexpectedness of this disaster, and for requiring the largest maritime salvage operation in history. The captain of the Costa Concordia authorized a deviation from the planned route which led to the ship running aground off Isola del Giglio, Tuscany in Italy. The wreck caused the death of 32 passengers and one salvage personnel. There were about 4252 people, including 3206 passengers, on board the ship at the time of the accident.
8. RMS Empress of Ireland
The collision of RMS Empress of Ireland, owned by the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company, and SS Storstad, the Norwegian collier is often referred to as the Titanic of Canada. The causalities caused by this wreck (1012 deaths) are the highest in the maritime history of Canada. In the early hours of May 29, 1914, Empress of Ireland was on its 96th voyage when the collision occurred and the majestic liner sunk down St. Lawrence River on its way to Liverpool from Quebec City. It took a mere 14 minutes for the liner to go down completely and the tragedy became one of the three most memorable shipwrecks between 1912 and 1915.
9. MS Estonia
Another of the worst shipwrecks of modern times is the 1994 disaster of the MS Estonia, a cruise ferry on its way from Tallinn in Estonia, to Stockholm. This roll-on/roll-off cruise ferry turned on its side and sank on September 28, 1994. The weather was bad in the Baltic Sea and early distress signals reveal that the ferry was listing heavily. The strong winds had unhinged the bow visor which had perhaps not been secured properly, say experts. Choppy waters soon started to flood the vessel which ultimately capsized claiming 852 lives. Only about 137 people on board survived the disaster.
One of the most tragic maritime disasters of the 16th century was the sinking of Mary Rose, the carrack warship of Tudor King Henry VIII on July 19, 1545. Mary Rose was one of the earliest ships built with the ability to fire a full broadside of cannons. Disaster struck even as Mary Rose set sail from the strait of Solent to counter the French invasion of King Francis I. About 400 of the sailors on board lost their lives and only 35 survived.