While the notion of being on a cruise ship sounds romantic and even entertaining, it does come with risks like any other form of transportation. Because the seas can be unpredictable in combination with severe weather, the ships can only take so much of it before they get tossed about by the elements. Yet one may hope that the ship is well-designed enough to still make it through, and has a good enough crew to make sure that happens. But the truth is, things can go wrong and really badly, in cases like the Titanic. Though since that tragic incident, multiple advancements in ship design and protocol among the ship’s crew have insured better safety on ships in general to get to the point where nothing as severe as the Titanic should happen again.
Still, there have been ships that have either sustained too much damage, have been deserted and left to the elements’ mercy, or even sunk, in some cases, even very recently. They don’t happen very often, though, but when they do there’s a lot of media attention around them. While some have been salvaged and discontinued, others have been left to rot and gradually sink on their own. So, here are some famous ships that are barely hanging on after being abandoned long ago, or lying at the bottom of the ocean.
25 Costa Concordia - The Modern Titanic
Among the various shipwrecks that have occurred in recent history, this one has become the most famous with some even comparing it to the Titanic disaster. As outlined in an article by Live Science, the Costa Concordia sank in 2012 which was exactly a century after the Titanic sank in 1912. Plus, they both hit something that caused them to sink. In the Titanic’s case, it hit an iceberg and the Costa Concordia hit a rock. But there are some notable differences, such as the captain of the Costa Concordia abandoning ship, according to Live Science, while the Titanic’s captain didn’t.
24 SS Monte Carlo - No One Wanted It
Though it may not seem like much now, this concrete ship has a long and complicated history to its name. According to The Vintage News, it was originally called the SS McKittrick, passing through several owners in the process, from the US Quartermaster Corps in the 1920s to a pair of crooks in the 30s. By this point, the boat had been converted into a “Sin ship” which were popular during the era of Prohibition. Then after a bad storm hit, it washed on to the shore of South Coronado Beach, California, and no one has claimed ownership of it since.
23 James McBride - A Victim of Lake Michigan
While Lake Superior has a number of infamous shipwrecks, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, which had a song written about it, Lake Michigan has its share of sunken treasures as well. One such example is the James McBride, which was a brig-style ship that was launched in 1848 on April Fool’s Day, ironically, according to Michiganmysteries. Primarily used to deliver various cargo, it was in service for almost ten years when it crashed near the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Lake Michigan. But because the ship was uninsured “Due to her deteriorated condition,” Michiganmysteries states, it was left to the elements.
22 Sweepstakes - Another One Sinks
All the way up in Lake Ontario, Canada, there is a sunken schooner (a ship that has two masts and/or more) called the Sweepstakes, lying near the bottom, though, curiously, it can be seen from the surface of the lake as the above picture shows. Originally built in the 1800s, it was “Hauling coal near Cove Island” according to the Daily Mail when her hull broke. Because the damage was too great, it was stripped of all its cargo and sunk deliberately. While it certainly does attract tourists, particularly divers, it is not the only sunken ship in the area.
21 Nippo Maru - Naval Warfare
Like the Umbria, this was another passenger ship that was utilized by the military in WWII. Though in this case, it was the Japanese instead of the Italians who mainly used it to transport certain cargo. Also known as the Nichiho Maru, the ship was “Torpedoed and sunk” in 1944 according to Argunners Magazine within the Balabac Strait, which lies between the South China and Sulu Seas. Rediscovered in the 1980s, it has become a popular diving site for tourists that happen to be visiting the area from nearby places such as the Philippines, Borneo, and Balabac Island itself.
20 MS World Discoverer - So Much for Exploration
Originally known as the BEWA Discoverer in 1974, according to Sometimes-Interesting, it was originally built in Germany yet passed through multiple owners. This included Singapore, where its name was changed, and Liberia. Then in the year 2000, this ship was cruising near the Solomon Islands when it hit a reef and got stuck. While the passengers were safely rescued along with the crew, the ship was completely abandoned. The main reason for this is that, “The locals had looted anything of value from the vessel” Something-Interesting states that it seemed worthless at the time to bother salvaging it.
19 MV Jupiter - Class Trip Gone Wrong
Israeli in origin, this cruise ship was originally called the Moledet in the 1960s before being sold to a Greek company a decade later and renamed. Then in 1988, a tragic incident occurred. According to The Independent, the Jupiter left the port of Piraeus, Greece, with a class full of British schoolchildren when an incoming freight ship hit the Jupiter’s port side (aka the left side). As a result, the ship sank pretty rapidly. Yet somehow, most of the passengers and crew survived except for four who went missing. Afterwards, The Independent states that delayed compensation and criminal charges followed.
18 SS Umbria - Abandon Ship!
Also known as the SS Bahia Blanca, it was a passenger ship that went through different companies in multiple countries. This included Germany, where the ship was originally made according to Jan Lettens on Wrecksite, Argentina and Italy. Then during WWII, the Umbria was caught in an awkward position. Because Italy had allied with Germany at the time and the Umbria was carrying lots of ammunition, Lettens says, the crew decided to deliberately abandon their ship in order to not get captured by the British. On top of that, they sank the ship with some British guards onboard.
17 Taranto - An Italian Ship near Croatia
On a similar note, there was another Italian ship called the Taranto that sank off the coast of Croatia instead of Sudan (which was the case for the Umbria). The cause of the sinking was also different, since it was accidental as opposed to deliberate. To elaborate, the Taranto was sailing around Croatia delivering supplies in the midst of WWII when it hit “An anti-ship mine” according to Croatia Times’ website. As a result, the hull was damaged and eventually the ship sunk near its intended destination which was the city of Dubrovnik on Croatia’s southern coast.
16 Encarnación - An Un-Looted Merchant Ship
During the Seventeenth century, the Americas were being colonized and exploited by three major countries in Europe. Apart from Britain and France, the other big player was Spain who was mining metals in Peru and thus built several fleets of merchant ships to transport goods from the New World according to National Geographic. Among these ships included the Encarnación, which sank due to a storm. Though it wasn’t discovered until 2011, National Geographic states, its cargo wasn’t looted (which is surprising given the frequency of pirate attacks at the time of its sinking) and was intact for the most part.
15 Santa Leonor - Beached
Along a certain channel in the country of Chile, there lies the beached remains of a ship called the Santa Leonor. Also known as the USS Riverside, the main story about it is such: In 1964, according to Kauer’s Korner, it was navigating north through the Smyth Channel with Chilean pilots when a mixup in terms of orders caused the ship to get beached on a small island in the channel though no one was lost. In actuality, the ship crashed in 1968 after being used to transport various troops in WWII as stated by NavSource Naval History.
14 MS Pacific - Princess No More
Better known as the Pacific Princess, this ship came about in the 1970s for one purpose: to star in a television show. Specifically, The Love Boat which focused on the escapades of the ship’s crew and its passengers (all of whom were guest stars) with the occasional crossover between other TV shows that were popular at the time such as Charlie’s Angels and Fantasy Island. It also served as a real cruise ship, before being decommissioned in 2008. Because it was “Too costly to renovate” according to CNBC, the MS Pacific was sold to a Turkish recycling company and dismantled.
13 Sewol - Incompetency
In 2014, this South Korean passenger ship set sail with dozens of teenagers onboard. Then in one fell swoop, the ship sank with only a few surviving. While the cause of it is uncertain, due to conflicting reports and accounts of what happened, there was a lot of blame placed on the coast guard and the ship’s crew for negligence, according to CNN. It also didn’t help that the ship was recovered three years following its initial sinking, which in turn made South Korea’s leader at the time look bad due to the lack of response right before her impeachment.
12 SS America - A Ship from the Past
Back in the 1940s, this ship was considered to be “One of the largest, most luxurious cruise liners in America” according to VICE. Then after decades of disuse, it was going to be hauled from Greece to Thailand in the hopes of being restored for tourism purposes. So in 1994, VICE states that a Ukrainian tugboat was given the task of doing this but unfortunately they didn’t make it with the precious cargo intact. Instead, the America crashed near Fuerteventura Island (one of the Canary Islands near Spain) and is all but gone now due to looting and the natural elements.
11 MS Sea Diamond - Ramming into Reefs
Owned by a Finnish company, the ship was originally called the Birka Princess after the cruise line it was a part of in the 1980s, according to Maritime Cyprus. Then its name was changed when a Cyprus cruise company bought it in the mid-2000s. Though only a year after this transition occurred in 2006, Maritime Cyprus says, the ship rammed in to a volcanic reef near the island of Santorini in Greece. While most of the passengers were evacuated, two went missing. Later, the ship’s tanks were emptied of oil and the ship itself was raised due to environmental concern.
10 MTS Oceanos - Neglected
Launched in the 1950s, this passenger ship underwent several name changes in its history. Then during a roundabout trip along the coast of South Africa, which occurred in 1991 according to NBC News, a severe storm hit, causing a breach in the ship’s hull. Yet as the passengers were panicking, the ship’s crew started evacuating without them. While the women and children were taken to the lifeboats, NBC News states, roughly half of the ship’s 400 passengers were left stranded until the next morning when an airlift came. Then as the ship sank into the ocean, some had to jump.
9 Starship Majestic - Many Names
Now here’s a vessel that has served various cruise lines and undergone so many name changes in its history, which spans over forty years. Beginning in 1972 under the name Ocean Dream, according to Cruise Hive, it has also been called: the Spirit for London, the Sun Princess, and the Starship Majestic just to name a few. But then a few years ago, the ship was anchored off the coast of Thailand and abandoned after being decommissioned. This was then followed by the ship’s subsequent sinking in 2016, Cruise Hive states, though no one has bothered to tow it afterward.
8 MV Princess of the Stars - Too Much Wind
Japanese in origin, it was once called the MV Ferry Lilac before being renamed and given to a Filipino company according to Wrecksite. Though it had been originally built in the 1980s, this passenger ferry wasn’t able to survive a tropical storm that completely capsized it (as the above image shows). Because a lot of victims were accounted for, there was a lot of blame on the company, especially after the recovery work was briefly halted. This was due to the ship’s cargo containing tons of pesticide endosulfan, as said by Wrecksite member Pablobini, which had to be removed first.
7 Eastern Star - Missing Passengers
Known locally as the MV Dongfang zhi Xing, it was a large passenger boat that gave tours of the Yangtze River. But then in 2015, the ship was hit with a bad storm according to Maritime Cyprus causing it to “Sink within just a few minutes”. Out of all the passengers on the ship, only a few survived due to the rest being asleep when the storm happened. Upon further investigation, Maritime Cyprus says, it was called into question whether the ship was prepared to handle the storm or not while the Chinese media tried to sugarcoat the whole thing.
6 St. Martin Shipwreck - One of Many
Also known as Sint Maarten, this island in the Caribbean Sea is owned by the Netherlands as well as the French Republic. It’s famous not just for its tropical location but also for the number of shipwrecks along its coast. For this reason, it’s popular among divers. The boat in this picture, for instance, was a victim of Hurricane Lenny, which occurred in 1999, according to Trover user Chasing Adventure. After getting stuck in the shallows near the shore, it’s been sitting there for many years due to unsuccessful attempts at removing it, and thus has rusted with age.
5 SS California - Mistaken Identity
Like Saint Martin, the island of Aruba is also known for having multiple shipwrecks off of its coast. Yet the one in this picture near Malmok Beach is uncertain in terms of its identity. According to Shipwreckexpo, it’s been called the SS California and claimed to be the ship that didn’t respond to the Titanic’s SOS signal before it sank. However, the actual ship that did this was called the SS Californian thus throwing this ship’s identity into question. Then in 2012, the ship had drifted closer to shore due to a hurricane as evidenced in a SayVan Photography post.
4 Perama Tour - What a Disaster!
Of the various tour boats in Indonesia, one of the more popular ones is Perama Tours’ Hunting Komodo by Camera which sails around several islands before arriving at the titular Komodo Island where the Komodo Dragons reside. Though for travel blogger Adventurous Kate, this trip took a bad turn when the boat she was on crashed in the middle of the night during a storm, forcing her and the other passengers to swim onto Komodo Island itself. Then after a rescue ship arrived several hours later, it turned out the salvaged luggage had been ransacked (presumably by the ship’s crew).
3 Astron - Been Through a Lot
Having gone under two other aliases, namely Esmeralda and Bonnie according to Carl Racey on Wrecksite, it was an oil tanker that was originally built by the French before coming under ownership by the Russians. Then in the 1970s, the ship was making its way to Cuba when it got stuck near the town of Punta Cana. Now it’s unclear why it ran aground the way it did, with theories ranging from storms to underwater mines or torpedoes. After all, this was during the Cold War. It is a popular site among divers as most of the ship is submerged.
2 Cartanser Senior - Sunk and Re-Sunk
Located near the island of St. Thomas, which is part of the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, this ship was originally used in WWII before being abandoned in the 1970s. However, its location wasn’t particularly great for navigational purposes so the United States Army Corps of Engineers was thinking about breaking it down according to Shipwreckexpo. But then the local diving club put together a campaign in order to save the sunken ship and move it to a better location. So that’s just what happened, following the campaign’s success, and now it’s visible for all to see.
1 Gunilda - Rumored to Have Treasure
One of the main reasons shipwrecks are popular among divers is the possibility of finding hidden treasure, even though it’s not always guaranteed since these claims tend to be based on rumors. Take, for example, the Gunilda which was considered to be “The finest boat in the New York Yacht Club at the turn of the 20th century” according to Great Lakes Shipwrecks. Offering tours of the Great Lakes area to the incredibly rich, it was sailing around Lake Superior when it hit a steep shoal forcing the passengers to be ferried away who supposedly left their valuable belongings behind.
Resources: trover.com, thevintagenews.com, shipwreckexpo.com, navsource.org, wrecksite.eu, sometimes-interesting.com, nbcnews.com, livescience.com, cruisehive.com, cnn.com, news.nationalgeograpphic.com, dailymail.co.uk, michiganmysteries.com, greatlakesunderwater.com, cnbc.com, independent.co.uk