It’s interesting how a person’s travel aspirations can change over time. As with so many other things in life, it’s often a case of gaining confidence, taking things slowly but steadily.
Take me, for instance. As a child (and into my early adulthood, to be entirely honest with you), I was a very nervous and super travelsick holidaymaker. I’d arrive at our family vacation resort as pale, clammy and sickly-looking as the Swamp Thing from the comic books. And speaking as a Brit, you know that’s bad news.
As such, you’ll forgive me for not wanting to embark on any ambitious around-the-world flights at that age. Traditional vacations to the English coast were about as far afield as I could bear to go. It was a long time before I wanted to head further afield to Europe, and then beyond.
Now a confident, experienced traveller of a certain age (don’t ask me, it’s not polite), I’ve fallen in love with cruising. A style of vacation I never thought I’d be able to take. Which is great and all, but I have to say, I’m certainly not the ocean’s biggest fan.
The fact is, there’s so much about those deep, dark depths we still don’t know. So many poor, doomed ships lurk under the sea, and stranger things still. Let’s take a look at Blackbeard’s legendary Queen Anne’s Revenge, the world’s spookiest museum and the strangeness of the Baltic Sea Anomaly.
That was the mistake here, for sure. You know what Mother Nature’s like. You think you’re going to get away with calling your ship ‘unsinkable?’ Not on my darn planet, buddy boy.
Enough of that, though. The bottom line is, you can’t put together a rundown of sunken ships without the iconic Titanic rearing its head. You just can’t. We all have at least a patchy knowledge of what happened that fateful morning in April 1912, and we can be thankful that the security of those who travel on the ocean today is better safeguarded as a result. The two huge halves of the Titanic are still a testament to that today.
Ah, yes. If the Titanic itself is iconic, so is that king of the world business. Is there any first-time cruiser who hasn’t replicated that famous scene on the bow? Of course, there isn’t. It just has to be done, there’s no resisting it.
Back to the wreckage itself, though, there have been various proposals as to how to raise the ship from the ocean. These have ranged from injecting it with Vaseline to using lots of magnets, but the bottom line is that what’s left of the ship is just too fragile to mess with. It’s degrading year-by-year as it is, down there in the crushing darkness off the shore of Newfoundland.
Now, I totally hear you. Museums are not for everybody. These are some of the most dreaded and boring field trips schools have to offer, depending on where you’re going and what you’re seeing.
Mexico’s MUSA (El Museo subaquático de Arte, or Underwater Museum), however, is guaranteed not to disappoint. Located in Cancún, it’s home to five hundred different sculptures, in galleries a few metres beneath the surface of the water!
It was created in response to tourists’ negative impact on surrounding reefs. A non-profit organisation dedicated to conservation, it has succeeded in creating the world’s biggest artificial reef. A noble cause indeed.
Actually, as it turns out, elephants are surprisingly fast and agile swimmers. That’s not the point, though, because the Disney reference falls apart if you actually take that literally.
Let’s start this one again. As we’ve seen, there are certainly some peculiar structures in our oceans, both natural and of our own making. What about the wildlife, though? That’s where the wonders really come in.
Take the Dumbo octopus, for instance. This adorable little thing, as National Geographic reports, tends to live suspending close to the sea floor, and sightings are rare. It swims through the water by flapping its great ‘ears,’ and I 100% need one as a pet right now.
Now, this is a curious case. The Astron was a Russian cargo ship, which was built in the mid-to-late 1950s. It currently resides in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and… well, that’s certainly where it’s staying. Because it’s torn in half.
Nobody quite knows the circumstances surrounding the ship’s unfortunate fate (there have been conflicting reports), but one thing’s for sure: she was scuttled here decades ago, with her bow above the water and her stern submerged. The Astron has been threatening to disappear below the waves entirely ever since (the ocean water doesn’t tend to be all that friendly to shipwrecks), and it seems committed to that goal.
I’ve always found living in Britain to be a bit of a mixed bag, wildlife-wise. For one thing, there’s nothing particularly big or dangerous on this sheltered island; the only natural predators are the seagulls that grab our fish and chips right from our hands on the coast.
We’ve got safety on our side, sure, but we also miss out on the more interesting, big, angry, what-the-heckola-is that sort of creatures. The Japanese spider crab is definitely one of those.
Found around the Japanese coast (funnily enough), this majestic creature is the world’s largest crustacean. Specimens have been found that measure 3.6m across its outstretched legs, and even bigger!
Now, if you really want a gold star, the technical name for black smokers would be geothermal vents. So there you go.
There are lots of things that are so uncertain in this unpredictable world. You thought it was a safe bet that the Arctic Ocean would be darn cold? Well, guess again, friends. Let’s let Live Science set the scene:
“Many miles inside the Arctic Circle, scientists have found elusive vents of scalding liquid rising out of the seafloor at temperatures that are more than twice the boiling point of water.”
These vents have been dubbed black smokers, and are known to exist elsewhere in our oceans. These particular examples are the furthest north science has yet discovered, and it’s a fascinating case.
Now, the pirate life may not be quite as fun as the Pirates of the Caribbean movies tell us. Johnny Depp flailing around in dreadlocks is one thing, but there’s much more to it than that.
One thing that the movies did get right was the fact that Queen Anne’s Revenge was once captained by the infamous and fiery-facial-haired Blackbeard.
As reported by All That’s Interesting, it was Blackbeard’s flagship for around a year in 1717, before he ran it aground. The location of the wreck remained uncertain until 1996, when the remains of a ship that seemed to be Queen Anne’s Revenge was discovered. The report explains,
“Thousands of artifacts were recovered from the shipwreck, but none of them provided definitive evidence towards the ship’s sole identity. In fact, it wasn’t until 2011 that the National Geographic Society felt confident enough to confirm the ship as Queen Anne’s Revenge.”
I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of it –it’s not very famous or anything—but there was a ship called the Titanic. It hit an iceberg or something, and Leonardo DiCaprio sank into the icy sea because his new girlfriend wouldn’t share the big ol’ door she was floating on.
It’s a sad story, all in all (not to mention a super-long, cheek-numbing movie). Snark aside, we all know this story, but how many of us know about the Titanic’s sister ship?
The Britannic was constructed by the same company as the famous doomed vessel, the White Star Line. Built after the Titanic’s sinking, it was better prepared for the elements, sporting a reinforced hull and enough darn lifeboats for everybody. It was used as a hospital ship during conflict, until it was sunk by the enemy. Fortunately, most on board survived the sinking.
Our scientists and researchers sometimes like to think that they know just about everything about this world of ours. They brandish their fancy degrees like Dr. Sheldon Cooper, claiming to be unquestionable authorities on such-and-such a subject.
The darkest, dankest depths of our oceans, however, are still a largely unexplored mystery. There are things down there that could call into question everything we think we know about our world.
The Baltic Sea Anomaly is certainly one such thing. As reported by The Express, this unusual geological feature lies on the floor of the Baltic Sea. It was discovered in 2011 by Sweden’s Ocean X diving team, and remains unexplained. It looks far too artificial to have formed naturally, and there are those who claim it’s a UFO.
As we saw with Queen Anne’s Revenge, it’s always a breakthrough moment when an iconic ship from the past can be positively identified (as far as that’s possible, in some cases). That breakthrough is made all the sweeter when we learn just how much precious loot is involved.
In 2015, divers found the mouldering remains of a ship on the floor of the Caribbean. They claimed that it was the famed San Jose Galleon, a luxurious and treasure-laden ship that dated back three centuries. Again, it took some considerable time to investigate the wreck and identify it, but now it seems that those wild claims are true.
Oh, yes indeed, friends. As History reported in May 2018, we’re looking at the San José Galleon right here.
The ship’s story began in 1698, when it first set sail as part of a very special Spanish fleet. Its task, during a heated conflict with England, was to bring loot and other valuables from around the Empire home to Spain.
A decade into its service, the loot-laden galleon was sunk by an English naval attack. Its swag, which included all manner of precious gems, was lost on the ocean floor with it, until the discovery in 2015. According to History, it was identified by “the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s REMUS 6000, an autonomous underwater vehicle.”
Elaborate and distinctive carvings on the ship’s cannons were used to identify it, and the remains are said to be worth anything up to $17 billion. What’s to become of all that treasure? We don’t yet know.
Now, we’re all familiar with the legend of Atlantis, that supposed lost civilisation. Like a lot of similar stories, there are naysayers and there are believers, and new theories emerge as quickly as older ones are refuted. I’m not saying Aquaman’s down there on that sweet throne of his, but someone or something might be.
One thing that certainly does exist below our oceans is the Yonaguni Monument. This odd formation of rocks was discovered in 1987, and like the Baltic Sea Anomaly, it looks far too intricate in places to be naturally-occuring. It’s fascinating stuff, as All That’s Interesting reports:
“The Yonaguni Monument is mostly composed of sandstone and mudstone, and the various structures are connected to the rock beneath them. The most prominent part of the structure is a giant slab of rock that is nearly 500 feet long and 130 feet wide. It’s also 90 feet tall, and the distance from the surface of the water to the top of the monument is around 16 feet.
If it was just a giant piece of rock underwater then it wouldn’t be that interesting, but there are all sorts of details that would point to human influence. There are a couple of pillars, a stone column, a wall that is 33 feet wide, a road, and a star-shaped platform.”
I’ve already touched on humankind’s tendency to get a little uppity and complacent, and how totally unwarranted it can be at times. We think this is our planet? Well, Mother Nature might just have a little something to say about that.
She can be a cruel mistress, can’t she? We think our huge, steely cities and magnificent cruise ships will last forever? Well, Mother Nature can take them down whenever the fancy takes her.
These are some of the treasures that were found in the wreckage of the luxurious SS President Coolidge, which, according to BlazePress, “…was the largest and finest vessel built by an American shipyard at the time of her launch in 1931.”
Large and fine vessels, sadly, don’t always remain large and fine. Sometimes, they end their days at the bottom of the ocean, with a whole new marine ecosystem living in their shattered portholes. This was the case with the SS President Coolidge, which sadly struck underwater mines and sank near Vanuatu’s coast.
BlazePress picks up the sorry story:
“Today fine mosaic tiles and chandeliers co-exist alongside jeeps and various other… relics within the haunting wreck.”
The mouldering remains of some of the fine items on board, as you see here, hint at how impressive and ostentatious this ship was in its prime.
Here’s a curious thing. Rivers, as we all know, are generally considered to be water sources in their own right. What with, you know, being sources of flowing water and all. That’s the first dang thing you learn in River Class, right there. As with so many things in this strange world of ours, though, it’s not always as simple as that.
As reported by The Telegraph, “Researchers working in the Black Sea have found currents of water 350 times greater than the River Thames flowing along the sea bed, carving out channels much like a river on the land.”
This curious phenomenon was discovered in 2010. It’s an entirely separate water source, which is able to exist because it contains much denser water than the surrounding ocean (due to the heavy sediment and salinity).
There’s something ethereal and beautiful about shipwrecks. We’re drawn to these haunting images, for reasons we just can’t explain. Sweepstakes is an unusual case, though. It’s just plain gorgeous, whichever way you slice it.
The wreck of the Sweepstakes is found in Ontario, in the northern reaches of the Bruce Peninsula. As Blue Heron Cruises reports, the ship sank in 1885, after hitting a rock and struggling in the shallow waters of the peninsula. She was towed to her current resting place in Big Tub Harbor where she sank in the most elegant way it’s possible for a ship to sink.
Now, generally speaking, you wouldn’t really think of a shipwreck as a tourist attraction. That sounds just a little bit grim for my taste. Considering the circumstances and the location, though, it makes perfect sense that visitors would want to come from miles around to see the stricken Sweepstakes.
Just look at that aerial view. The ship’s big selling point is the super-shallow water it’s submerged in, as well as its sheer age. With these factors in mind, plus the fact that it’s one of the world’s best preserved nineteenth-century Great Lakes schooners, this is a really stunning piece of maritime history.
If history isn’t your thing, you can still appreciate what a haunting sight this vessel makes.
So, yes. We’ve already touched on the tale of the legendary Atlantis, and how believers love to try tying any odd underwater finds into it. These sorts of stories live on tenuous links like that.
Here comes another of them: Bimini Road. As reported by Atlas Obscura, “In 1968, a diver off the coast of North Bimini Island, Bahamas discovered a series of stones 18 feet below the surface. The stones appeared manmade, and were evenly spaced out in a road-like line stretching a half mile.”
This discovery sparked all kinds of theories, as did the fact that two other similar ‘roads’ were also found. Sadly, it was determined that these limestone blocks formed naturally, so the mystery of Atlantis will have to remain just that for now.
As I’ve already said, we do like to show off at times, don’t we? If you’ve ever picked up one of those glossy celebrity magazines (or read similar celeb-tastic content on the internet), you’ll have certainly noticed that. It’s all about showing off your luxurious, pristine homes, your fleet of sports cars, your… solid gold helicopters.
As DestinationTips reports, this attitude led to the demise of a fine Swedish vessel, the famous Vasa. This magnificent 17th-century ship was:
“…built in the early 1600s to glorify King Gustavus Adolphus. Despite the shipbuilders’ objections, they were told to build it bigger [and] more grandiose than ever. However, when it comes to seaworthiness, bigger and heavier isn’t always better. The glorious Vasa sunk on its maiden voyage just a mile out of Stockholm harbor.”
So, there we go. It’s totally like our most famous and most… royal to do this sort of thing, isn’t it? For an attempt to lord it over us mere mortals, and for it to come back and bite them on the cheeks.
Nevertheless, though, the Vasa was well preserved by the cold climate of the Baltic. After some careful restoration work, it’s gone on to enjoy a new life, as one of the country’s top tourist attractions. It’s found in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, which is one of the region’s most popular museums. Now that’s a proud legacy.
These sorts of places will keep coming, won’t they? I’ve seen so many Atlantis-esque places over the course of researching this piece, I’m starting to believe myself. At this point, if Jason Momoa himself emerged from the ocean with his trident and offered to take me home to meet his people, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
Snark aside, Pavlopetri is an ancient, sunken city off the coast of Laconia, Greece. As Ancient Code puts it,
“Archaeologists believe that a cataclysmic event, a powerful earthquake, that occurred around 1000 BC caused the ground around the city to sink, bringing the town floor three meters below sea level, changing the regions topography forever.
The well-designed roads, houses and temples demonstrate that Pavlopetri was an extremely well organized city, and several researchers claim that the design of Pavlopetri surpasses other similar cities of that time period by far.”
Cue the conspiracy theories.
As I say, we may like to think that our powerful concrete-and-steel creations will last forever, but they most certainly won’t. As awe-inspiring as vast skyscrapers like the Empire State Building are, that’s just the sad reality of things.
This is why it’s such a stunning thing when sunken ships are so well preserved. Look at the poor old Helvetia, which ran aground on the shore of Rhossili Beach in Wales. This Norwegian vessel has been here since 1887, and… well, it’s safe to say that it’s not looking its best. Only the smallest hunks of its wooden frame have survived.
Ah, yes. The world-famous Floating Forest. Leave it to Australia to bring u something this quirky and unique.
Quirky and unique neatly sums up that proud, remote island nation. It’s a country of glorious, unusual wildlife, customs and slang, as we all know. By Australia’s standards, a floating forest is fairly tame.
Nevertheless, here it is. The SS Ayrefield is a decommissioned cargo freighter from the early twentieth century. On its retirement, it was simply left to float in Homebush Bay, Sydney. Over time (and the ship’s been around for almost 120 years now), a hardy crop of Mangrove trees has grown all over its surface. What a sight.
When it comes to man-made structures, this rundown has only featured those that have long since disappeared under the waves (the ancient city of Pavlopeti), or those that were actually darn well supposed to be down there in the first place (the Underwater Museum of Cancún).
Finally, we’re going to take a look at a place that doesn’t quite fall into either category: Port Royal. This village in South Jamaica was once one of the biggest and most important cities in the Caribbean (as depicted in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies), but has been wracked by earthquakes and tsunamis. Large portions of what was once the city have been submerged by these disasters over the years.
Nevertheless, the ‘sunken 17th century pirate town’ is a treasure trove of great importance to historians.
Resources: History.co.uk, All That’s Interesting, Blue Heron Cruises, Listverse, The Telegraph, Atlas Obscura, Mental Floss, Live Science, Ancient Code, Two Oceans Aquarium.