The 10 most famous and disastrous Shipwrecks of Maritime History

As shipwrecks go, none can match up to these ten disasters in history. How do massive ships thought to be unsinkable like the Titanic actually end up sinking, is still a mystery. Even more significant is the fact that shipwrecks are such that it takes years to locate such as several warships of World War II.

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Although, the Titanic was perhaps the most dramatized shipwreck in history, there have been equally devastating incidents of ships that have sunk. Here are the 10 most famous shipwrecks of all time.

10 MS al-Salam Boccaccio 2006

When water was used to douse a fire that had broken out in the engine room on the Ms Salam Boccaccio, little did the crew know that this would be their undoing? The accumulated water in the hull capsized the ship which resulted in hundreds of passengers being trapped. Because of poor weather conditions, rescue efforts were delayed, leading to the death of 1000 people drowning in the Red Sea. The owners of the ship, who were warned initially as to the deteriorating conditions on the ship were jailed in 2009 for negligence.

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MS al-Salam Boccaccio 2006

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9 SS General Slocum 1904

The passengers on the steamboat SS general Slocum were parishioners belonging to the Lutheran Church of St. Mark who had chartered the ship for a picnic at Long island. Unfortunately, a fire broke out, which spiraled out of control, due to stocks of gasoline and paint. The most tragic irony of this situation was that life vests aboard the ship were only for show and not practical use. Imagine that!! Even the lifeboats could not be used. Many passengers, who couldn’t swim were faced with the ghastly decision of either drowning or being charred to death by the flames. 1021 people died that fatal day, most of them being women and children.

The captain of the ship Van Schaick, was convicted to ten years at Sing Sing prison for criminal negligence.

SS General Slocum 1904

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8 The Toya Maru

The pride of Japan, the Toya maru launched in 1947 was equipped with state-of-the-art technology of the period. However, that couldn’t save 1200 lives that drowned, when the Toya Maru sank to the bottom of the sea near the Japanese island of Hokkaido in 1954. The ship was caught in Typhoon Marie, which battered the ship despite of it being stationery when the Captain dropped anchor as a precautionary measure. The typhoon was so strong it blew the ship away and tossed it like a toy on the sea. Among the casualties were 35 American soldiers.

The Toya Maru

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7 The RMS Lusitania

The RMS Lusitania was a passenger ship, sunk by a German U-Boat torpedo on May 7th 1915. Although, there was worldwide condemnation, Germany claimed it was carrying weaponry and hence the international cruiser rules which protected civilians did not apply in its case. What many don’t know was that the Lusitania was the sister ship of the Titanic. It seemed that the owners, White Star Line did not learn any lessons from the Titanic disaster because in this case too, 1,198 people died because there was a shortage of lifeboats.

The sinking RMS Lusitania

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6 The RMS Titanic 1912

When White Star Line made the Titanic, they believed it to be indestructible and thought it would never sink. Well, it did, after an iceberg ripped it open on that fateful night of April 15th, 1912. 15 of Titanic’s solid Iron compartments were opened up like a can of sardines. Calls for help were futile and neither were there enough lifeboats to save its passengers. 1514 drowned in the icy waters of the north Atlantic. Almost all of them were men and lower class passengers.

The RMS Titanic 1912

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5 The SS Sultana

The SS sultana was just a steamboat paddle wheeler that plied on the great Mississippi in 1865. It was near Memphis Tennessee when an accident occurred aboard, leading to an explosion of three boilers that disintegrated the ship. 1547 people died from burns and drowning. The reason why the incident lacked media coverage was because of another much more infamous event that had occurred a few days before. The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The SS Sultana

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4 The MV Joola

The MV Joola was owned by the Senegalese Government and was made to hold just 586 people including crew. When passengers boarded it on 26th September 2002, the numbers swelled to 2000. It was a disaster waiting to happen. The overloading of the ship resulted in the ship capsizing the moment it got caught in a storm on high seas near Gambia. Over 2000 people were thrown into the sea by the ferocious storm and drowned. The ship too sank a few hours after flipping upside down.

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The MV Joola

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3 The RMS Lancastria, 1940

Perhaps, the biggest disaster in maritime history and the most deplorable and cowardly act in war time was the sinking of the RMS Lancastria by Germans in World War II.The ship was part of Operation Ariel which was a mammoth effort to rescue and evacuate British citizens and soldiers from France. Over 4000 people were said to have drowned on that infamous day, however, subsequent studies estimate the number to be 6000. The news of the sinking was not reported until after the war, being withheld on orders of Winston Churchill, who didn’t want the incident to demoralize the nation.

The RMS Lancastria 1940

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2 The MV Goya

The M. V. Goya was sunk by a Russian submarine in the Baltic Sea, despite the fact that it wasn’t acting as a warship but a passenger vessel transporting 6700 people, consisting of German soldiers and civilians. Four torpedoes fired from the submarine ripped the ship into two pieces. It sunk within minutes. Just 183 people survived that day.

The MV Goya is a sacred war grave where divers are not allowed to swim within 500 meters of the shipwreck, failing which they would be liable for prosecution.

The MV Goya

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1 The MV Wilhelm Gustloff

The MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a transport ship belonging to the German Military was the most devastating shipwreck in history because it resulted in the death of 5000 children by drowning. The ship was sunk by a Russian submarine who thought that the vessel was carrying German Nazis. A total of 9000 lives were lost on that day in January 1945 where just 1252 survived.

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The MV Wilhelm Gustloff

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