Interesting facts and visions of sunken ships

Ian Harvey
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There are many, many reasons why ships sink. Maybe they aren’t built well; other times a ship will be sunk by another ship; and sometimes they are constructed well, but the wrath and volatility of Mother Nature wreak havoc. Of course, ships being sunk by another ship usually happen in wartime situations, although ship to ship collisions are increasingly common, especially in busy ports.

Shipwrecks – for some reason, certainly appeal to us. They are mystifying and always have been. Reports and legends have surrounded them, and treasure hunters make it their life’s labor locating them and discovering their mysteries. Sometimes the vessel just can’t be found, and even if it can, it may be difficult, or even impossible to access.

Battle of Samar

The fact is, shipwrecks are very numerous. In some places, there are so many submerged ships at the bottom of the sea that people have labeled them ‘ship graveyards.’ While some wreckage has inspired ghostly legends and frightening stories, others seem to have a cheerful and redeeming feature. In some ocean regions, shipwrecks are even used to create reefs and to promote biodiversity by expanding deep-sea habitats. Whatever your interest in the fates of these ships may be, we are certain you will enjoy the following fun and interesting facts about sunken ships.

During the Battle of Samar in 1944, an American destroyer charged the Japanese Navy and inflicted so much damage that the passing Japanese naval ships saluted it before it was entirely submerged.

The ship SS Central America was located by Tommy Thompson, a treasure hunter, in 1987. It sank more than a hundred years earlier, and after salvaging around $1 billion of gold, Thompson disappeared and has not been seen or heard of since.

SS Central America

China is endeavoring to claim the entire South China Sea. One of the few things preventing this is a partially sunken WW II ship that the U.S. gave to the Philippines. Because of this, the Philippines retains a claim to an uninhabited atoll called Second Thomas Shoal.

Denmark’s military sank a majority of their ships instead of handing their Navy over to Nazi Germany.

In 1773, a farmer who lived near Cape Town, South Africa, Wolraad Woltemade, rode his horse out to save sailors caught aboard a sinking vessel. He did this six times, but on the seventh trip his horse was too tired and he, his horse, and the remaining crew aboard the ship drowned.

The Japanese used manned suicide torpedoes, called ‘Kaiten’ to destroy allied ships during WW II.

A Kaiten Type

During WW II, a cat that served on several allied ships was called ‘Unsinkable Sam.’ Three of the ships he was aboard sank and ‘Sam’ survived each time.

In 1994, the ferry MS Estonia, on its way from Tallinn to Stockholm, sank in the Baltic Sea. Since salvaging the wreck proved too difficult, it was covered in concrete, and today it is illegal to dive at the site.

MS Estonia model Photo credit

The only known account of a train colliding with and sinking a ship occurred in Newcastle upon Tyne, England shortly after the Victoria Tunnel was opened.

In 1703, rough waves swept Thomas Atkins off the deck of his sinking ship onto another sinking ship. Miraculously, a second wave then swept him onto a lifeboat.

The USS Tang sank itself with one of its torpedoes after it became one of America’s most triumphant submarines of WWII.

The CIA spent nearly $4 billion in 1974, to build a ship equipped with a claw that reached approximately 5 km so it could raise a sunken Russian submarine.

USS Tang

Vasa, a ship from Sweden that sank in 1628, was found to have been built using two sets of measurements. One set of measurements used was Swedish feet (12 inches), and the other set of measurements used was Amsterdam feet (11 inches).

Karl von Müller, gentleman captain of a German cruiser during WW I would allow the crewmen of the vessels he was about to sink enough time to abandon ship.

The Titanic was not the greatest loss of life in U.S. nautical history. In 1865, the Sultana, a steamboat carrying returning Union POWs sank after the boilers exploded; more than 1,700 people died.

The cook of the tugboat Jascon 4 survived in an air pocket for three days after the ship sank on May 26, 2013; he was later found by divers.

In 1986, the K-219, a Russian sub sank with more than 30 nuke warheads on board. When the Russian authorities finally reached the wreck two years later, they found that the hatches had been forced open and the nuclear warheads had disappeared.

Soviet submarine K-219

A toilet malfunction caused the U-1206, a German U-Boat, to sink.

The greatest maritime disaster in world history was the sinking of the luxury liner Wilhelm Gustloff, accounting for more than 9,000 deaths. Unfortunately, the full description of the Wilhelm Gustloff has been lost to history for many reasons, the most noteworthy being that it happened during WW II and it was a German ship.

Off the eastern coast of the U.S., there are more than twenty sunken German submarines.

The Soviet submarine K-141 Kursk, sank in 2000, and all aboard perished because the Soviets rejected assistance from the U.S., Norwegian, and British navies.

Russian submarine Kursk (K-141) Photo Credit

In 1779, U.S. Captain John Paul Jones and his crew refused to surrender their ship to the British. Finally, John and his men boarded and took over a British vessel, while his vessel was burning and sinking.

The cruise ship Oceanos leaving Piraeus Harbor on June, 1986 Photo Credit


RMS Empress of Ireland

When the Oceanos cruise ship began to sink in 1991, the crew abandoned the passengers and the ship, but guitarist Moss Hills, one of the entertainers, took over and directed the rescue effort, List25 reported.

Read another story from us: Project Azoria – recovery of the sunken Soviet submarine K-129

Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, on May 29, 1914, the Empress of Ireland sank in the Saint Lawrence River, killing over a thousand people. Because of WW I, the story was largely forgotten.