If you’ve ever been on a cruise ship, you know those things are built to last. No man, woman, or sea creature could ever tear one of these vessels asunder. Mother Nature, however, does whatever she wants – including turning 5-star cruises into broken barnacle graveyards.
Even the best-made ships have been forced to bow down to mighty Mother Nature. The same goes for modern planes. If you’re about to take a flight or a cruise in the upcoming weeks, look away! The chances of these disasters striking your personal vessel are slim to none, so there’s no reason to get freaked out about them. If you feel a bit daring, skip ahead and see (with your own eyes) the most fascinating examples of ships and planes meeting terrible fates.
Below you’ll find a variety of nature-caused shipwrecks from the past century or so. We’ve left The Titanic off our list because although an iceberg is definitely part of nature, that accident was so complex that it’s a full story all on its own. Besides, you already know it! Thanks, Kate and Leo.
You’ll also see the final product of nature intervening with airplanes in unforgettable ways. Whether via hail storms, aggressive lightning, or otherwise, their stories prove that we should never underestimate the power of the natural world. She’s pretty amazing!
To gain a little perspective on life and the passage of time – or just to see some seriously weird pics – read on.
18 20. Mediterranean Sky’s Sandy Neglect (Cruise)
This cruise ship was built in 1952 and sailed the seas right up until August 1996. She was in perfect condition at the time. The problem: her owners were in debt. In 1997, upon arriving at a port in Patras, the Mediterranean Sky was arrested. Yes, ships can be arrested! It was news to us, too.
In order to stop the ship from sinking entirely, it was towed to shallow waters where Mother Nature started to take her toll. Rusted open and tipped sideways into the sea, it’s safe to say that this ship’s cruising days are long behind her.
17 19. Big Island Tour’s Lava Bomb (Cruise)
In July 2017, people touring the Hawaiian Islands by boat got a big surprise in the form of a blob of hot volcanic lava landing on (and melting through) the roof above their heads. The so-called lava bomb came from the active Kilauea Volcano which had been pouring hot lava into the sea for a number of weeks. Tour directors were mistaken in thinking it was safe to approach the island at last.
Everyone came out of this incident with few injuries, but very shaken up. "It was an explosion, basically," said Janet Snyder, a spokesperson for the injured. She said that in the end, the ship was “covered with lava.” See the damage for yourself in the photo above.
16 18. SS Eastland's Tragic Flip (Cruise)
Three years post-Titanic, a lesser-known cruise-related tragedy occurred in the Chicago River. SS Eastland was a cruise liner carrying more than 2,500 passengers at a time. It cruised the Great Lakes from Illinois to Indiana dozens of times between 1903 and 1915.
In 1915, it was tethered to a harbor getting ready to depart. Passengers had become concentrated on one side of the top deck of the ship, waving to the people below. It was then when strong waves beat the side of the boat in such a way that it tipped - not just onto its side, but completely upside down. This resulted in more than 800 passenger casualties. Chicago still holds memorials for this event to this day.
15 17. MS World Discoverer's Coral Trap (Cruise)
This ship performed dozens of flawless voyages since its construction in the 1970s. In the year 2000, it encountered an uncharted coral reef and was run aground in the Sandfly Passage’s Roderick Bay. All passengers and crew members were safely evacuated before the weight of the water caused this ship to tip all the way onto its side.
You can actually visit the MS World Discoverer for yourself! It’s still exactly where it partially sank 18 years ago. Several attempts have been made to salvage it, but tidal activity and Mother Nature’s salty bay waters have kept it rusting in place.
14 16. The Explorer’s Icy End (Cruise)
This ship is famous for taking adventurers on cruises around the Antarctic for 40 years. These cruises had been successfully uneventful until the ship’s final trip in 2007, when it “quietly struck ice" and began to sink. Sharp ice floes had punched holes into the hull.
All passengers were safely evacuated before the ship completely listed (a maritime term for tipping sideways) but floating ice and icebergs made it impossible for the ship to be safely retrieved. The Explorer’s long career had come to an end. It now sits rotting below the surface of the Antarctic Ocean like a frozen buried treasure.
13 15. Sea Diamond’s Accident After Dark (Cruise)
Have you been to Santorini yet? It’s a gorgeous Grecian destination that we love. This island is hosts plenty of celebrity holidays, 5-star hotels, and one very noteworthy shipwreck. You wouldn’t guess by looking at it, but the Sea Diamond is actually a modern cruise ship that sunk in 2007.
It ran into trouble (literally) while attempting to pass over some volcanic coral reef wildlife. It quickly took on water and sunk to more than 90 meters below the water. These days it sits deep under the surface by the shores of Santorini, although environmental protection groups want it moved ASAP.
12 14. MTS Oceanos’ Double Abandonment (Cruise)
This Greek-owned cruise ship seemed destined for life underwater. The Oceanos now lives miles beneath the ocean, all thanks to winds, waves, and water that proved to be too much for her to handle.
In 1991, sea water started to seep through the ship's "watertight" bulkheads. Bulkheads are essentially extra walls built between a ship's exterior and interior spaces that are meant to protect against flooding. The water got through nonetheless, and the ship's captain and crew abandoned passengers in a selfish (and now famous) rush to safety. Thankfully one of the Oceanos' onboard entertainers stepped up and got everyone off before the ship was swallowed entirely. See what it looks like above - after 27 years of laying abandoned.
11 13. Empress of Ireland's Foggy Misfortune (Cruise)
When thick fog descended on Canada's Saint Lawrence River in 1914, the ships in its waters were no longer able to see each other's locations clearly. Bad visibility caused the Empress of Ireland to collide with a small cargo ship, and within 14 minutes, she had sunk out of sight.
This tragic incident took the lives of most of the ship's 1,477 passengers and crew members. This was one of the most significant shipwrecks in Canada's history. The Halifax Explosion incident (which involved mother nature less than man-made problems) happened just three years later, making this decade a dark time in the country's maritime history.
10 11. Costa Concordia's Rocky Downfall (Cruise)
In January 2012, a seven-day cruise around Italy took a terrible turn when its captain deviated from the ship's usual path. By going a little bit too far in one direction, the ship struck the Scole Rocks about 800 meters from the nearest land mass.
Even though everyone realized that the ship was tipping right away, it wasn't until more than an hour later that the passengers were instructed to evacuate. By that time, news cameras had arrived to capture live footage of the ship going down. You might even remember this happening. It's hard to forget an image like this! It was shown worldwide as an example of nature's strength and poor leadership on the captain's part.
9 10. Turkey's Underwater Douglas Dakota (Plane)
Every time mother nature takes a plane into her control, the results are hard to look away from. Locals in Turkey have made a whole attraction out of one example of this. The Douglas Dakota is a commercial airplane that was intentionally sunk in the waters off the coast of Kas in July 2000. These days it's a wreck that visitors can explore underwater for themselves.
Years of underwater activity have caused algae and sea creatures to call this plane home. It even hosts schools of tropical fish from time to time! What makes it extra fun to explore is the knowledge that no passengers were hurt in the process of getting this plane underwater.
8 9. Yamamoto's 60-Year-Old Jungle Relic (Plane)
This Japanese fighter plane crashed into the thick jungle landscape of Papua New Guinea in the 1940s. It still sits exactly where it fell, although the wildlife of the island has begun to swallow it up. If you'd like to see this site for yourself, it's only accessible through local tour companies who can protect visitors against the dangers of the jungle.
Because this plane fell in such a secluded and remote location, many of its original features are still intact! This is impressive considering it's been entangled in shrubbery and trampled by jungle creatures for more than six decades. We'll have to see how much longer it will last before crumbling into history for good.
7 8. The Philippines' Ashy World Airways DC-10 (Plane)
One of the biggest news stories of 1991 was the Mount Pinatubo eruption. It was the second-largest eruption of the 20th century, causing a major impact across the Philippines (where the mountain is) and across the world. It kicked off major natural disasters like monsoons, and the volcanic ash also caused damage all by itself.
It's ash that damaged this World Airways DC-10 plane beyond repair. The weight of the ash, while it was still wet, tipped the plane's delicate balance, making it impossible for the plane to lift its tail. You can see the black ash marks in the photograph above. We don't know if this corrosive ash or the lava bomb (number 19 on this list) looks worse.
6 7. Kusadasi's Sunken Airbus A300 (Plane)
This is another plane that was intentionally sunk to cater to divers in Turkey. It's an Airbus 300 - a massive jet that was bought by a resort in Kusadasi in 2016. It's now fully submerged and integrated into the underwater ecosystem, acting as home to coral, algae, and the sea creatures local to this Mediterranean region.
It has become a major tourist attraction among both serious divers and recreational visitors to Turkey. In the words of one TripAdvisor reviewer: "The A-300 Airbus was amazing. There was plenty to see other than fish, lots of pottery, stone anchors, underwater warm springs..."
5 6. The Marshall Islands' Swamped P38 Lightning (Plane)
Did you know that "wreck hunter" is an actual profession? There are people trained to travel the world finding and recovering real plane wrecks. These professionals aren't the only ones who find buried aircraft treasure, however. The P38 Lightning happened to be found by Australian soldiers flying over the Marshall Islands.
They spotted parts of the wreck of this plane poking out from deep beneath the tropical brush. It was identified as a plane that was abandoned after running out of fuel and performing an emergency landing in a swamp. Sometimes the costs of removal and repair just aren't worth it after nature has taken its toll.
4 5. Geneva's Battered EasyJet B737-300 (Plane)
Looking at the front of this plane you might guess that it was involved in some sort of armed stand-off. You'd be right to think that it was pummeled repeatedly with pellets, but they weren't the kind of pellets that you can launch yourself. All of this damage was caused by one simple element of nature: hail.
Shortly after this plane took flight in 2003 it encountered a severe hail storm. The weather radar onboard the plane was "inadequate" at providing information about the oncoming storm in time, so the plane had to try to withstand it on short notice. Check out the picture above and decide for yourself whether it held up okay.
3 4. Mexico's Half-Buried Columbian Avianca (Plane)
Have you ever seen a plane half-submerged in SAND? This isn't something that happens every day. It also isn't something that can happen overnight. This Colombian aircraft crash-landed on a beach in Ventanilla, Mexico somewhere between 15 and 20 years ago.
It takes that long for little grains of sand to sink down and blow up and around the machine that rests upon them. These days, the sand buries the entire right wing and most of the tail of this Columbian Avianca aircraft. Visit for a glimpse at the kind of sandy scrap metal that Rey collects in the newest Star Wars films. It's like stepping on set!
2 3. Istanbul's Hail-Shattered Airbus 320 (Plane)
Imagine being the pilot of the plane pictured above. You have 127 passengers onboard, trusting you to get them safely to their destination no matter what. Then, all of a sudden, the clouds converge and you find yourself in the middle of a major hailstorm. When this happened to the real pilot of this Airbus 320, he lost most of the visibility of his cockpit's windscreen.
It was cracking and shattering before his eyes! Thankfully this pilot's training and cool demeanor led him to land the plane without a single person getting hurt. The damage from the hailstones meant that the plane didn't make it, however. Its smashed up nosecone made it unable to ever fly again.
1 2. Iceland's Beached R4D Skytrain (Plane)
Sometimes throughout history, countries have argued over who is responsible for recovering a fallen plane. In the case of the plane pictured above, neither the United States (the plane's owner) nor Iceland (owner of the land the plane crashed upon) wanted to remove the wreckage from this beach.
The plane came down in 1973 but to this day, it still sits on the Icelandic beach of Solheimasandur. Extremely harsh weather conditions and over-eager tourists have stripped this aircraft of most of its distinguishable parts. Visit to see what an airplane might look like without any wings at all.
References: BBC.com, Oyster.ca, ShipDetective.com, AtlasObscura.com, Seatrade-Cruise.com, CruiseLawNews.com, NBCnews.com, CBSnews.com, CanadasHistory.ca, TheGuardian.com, Telegraph.co.uk