Discover the Most Intriguing Sunken Ships Around the Globe

By: Solly Wise | Published: Oct 24, 2023

Unlock a whole new world of discovery beneath the waves!  The United Nations estimates that there are 3 million sunken ships on the ocean floor, and we’ve rounded up the best of the bunch of 30 wrecks that will make you marvel, gape, and even experience a little bit of submechanophobia!

So dive in and explore the unseen wonders of the sea with us!

Uncovering the Legendary Shipwreck of Endurance 

After 106 years of being submerged beneath the Weddell Sea, the historic shipwreck, Endurance, was discovered by a team of technicians, marine archaeologists, and adventurers. Endurance has become renowned for its connection to the survival story of Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, who led a crew of 27 men (and one cat) on their Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1917. 


Source: Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust/National

The ship became trapped in the pack ice and was ultimately crushed, forcing the crew to abandon it and set up a makeshift camp on nearby floes. Miraculously, Shackleton and his crew were rescued four months later. The recent discovery of Endurance brings to life the incredible story of Shackleton and his heroic journey.


Discover the Legendary Mediterranean Sky of Greece 

The Mediterranean Sky is one of the most renowned shipwrecks in Greece. Initially built in 1953 in the United Kingdom as “City of York”, it was purchased by Greek cruise company Karageorgis Lines in 1971 and renamed. Most famous for its luxurious 15-day passage from London to Cape Town, the 541-foot-long vessel offered two swimming pools, and state-of-the-art cabins for up to 1,000 passengers and 470 vehicles. 


Source: Vasilis Tsikkinis photos/Getty Images

After its final journey in 1996, the ship was beached in Eleusis in 2002, eventually capsizing and sinking in 2003. Visit Eleusis today to witness the half-submerged remains of this legendary ship.

Exploring the Depths of History: Uncovering the SS Thistlegorm 

Located near Egypt’s Ras Mohammad National Park lies the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm, a British Merchant Navy ship that was sunk during World War II. The ship was powered by a 1,850 horsepower triple-expansion steam engine and was armed with a 4.7-inch anti-aircraft gun and a heavy caliber machine gun. 


Source: Cigdem Sean Cooper/Getty Images

On her fourth and final voyage, Thistlegorm was carrying trucks, armored vehicles, motorcycles, guns, ammunition, and more. After being spotted by German intelligence, the ship was bombed and sunk. This wreck now sits at a depth of about 100 feet, making it an ideal site for scuba divers to explore and uncover the history of the SS Thistlegorm.

The Tragic Sinking of the Giannis D 

Once known as the Shoyo Maru and Markus, the Giannis D was a cargo ship built in Imabari, Japan in 1969. In 1983, it set off from Rijeka, Yugoslavia, on its last voyage but never reached its destination. 


While in transit in the Straits of Gubal, the ship drifted west and ran aground at full speed on the northwest edge of the Sha’ab Abu Nuhas Reef, resulting in its tragic sinking. Today, the wreckage of the ship lies in three sections at the bottom of the Red Sea, with its damaged bow only ten meters below the surface.

Explore the Shipwreck of Sweepstakes in Big Tub Harbour, Ontario! 

Experience the thrilling underwater adventure of exploring the famous shipwreck of Sweepstakes in Big Tub Harbour, Ontario. Just three hours from Toronto, the Great Lakes Schooner built in 1867 lies close to the surface of the water and makes for a great spot for divers and tourists alike. 


Go on a glass-bottomed boat tour to view the wreck, or take the plunge and dive into the depths to explore the remains of this historic vessel. Don’t miss out on this unique adventure!


Shipwreck Discovery of a Lifetime: The Peshtigo and St. Andrews Collision 

Bernie Hellstrom had a passion for maritime history and diving, so when his depth sounder detected an object 200 feet below the surface of northern Lake Michigan, he was eager to investigate. 

Source: John Janzen via AP

His investigation uncovered this incredible find – two schooners, the Peshtigo and St. Andrews, that had collided and sunk over 140 years ago. The ships had been thought to be lost in Lake Huron, yet Hellstrom had stumbled upon them in the depths of Lake Michigan, ten feet apart from one another. It was a shipwreck discovery of a lifetime!


The U.S. Navy's Intentional Shipwreck 

Not all shipwrecks are a result of accidents or war. The USNS General Hoyt S Vandenberg was originally a military troop transport and missile-tracking ship during World War II. After it was officially decommissioned in 1983, the 17,120 ton, 522 feet long vessel was intentionally sunk to create an artificial coral reef in 2009. 

Source: Flickr

140 feet below the surface, the imposing structure still leaves a 40 feet clearance between the wreckage and the surface of the sea. This unusual shipwreck is now a popular dive site in Florida.


Unfortunate Run-in with an Uncharted Reef - A Shipwreck in the Solomon Islands 

The Solomon Islands have a unique sight – a shipwreck that is only half-sunk. This former cruise ship met with an uncharted coral reef in 2000 making that its final journey and its new home. 

Source: Reddit

Despite some salvage companies trying to take interest in the ship, it had already been ransacked of most of its goods during the Civil War between 1998 and 2003. No longer a fully-functioning vessel, the shipwreck remains a unique and impressive sight in the south Pacific.


101 Years Later: The Niagara Scow Finally Moves! 

The Niagara Scow, an iron scow that had been lodged in the Niagara Falls for 101 years, finally moved in November 2019. After a storm surge caused winds of more than 50 miles per hour, it moved 160 feet downstream! 

Source: Niagara Parks

Its story began in 1918 when two sailors nearly steered it over the falls and were rescued. David Adames, the chief executive of the Niagara Parks Commission, said it was part of the Niagara Falls story for all time. After a century, the Niagara Scow finally moved!


The Mystery of the Abandoned Cargo Ship 

The tragic story of the cargo ship, Dimitrios, is one shrouded in mystery. Originally built in Denmark as Klintholm in 1950, it was acquired by a Greek company and moored in Gytheio, Greece in 1980 before being declared unsafe and eventually breaking free of its moorings during a storm. 

Source: George Pachantouris/Getty Images

It eventually found its permanent home at Valtaki beach, near Gytheio, where it remains stranded to this day. Rumors even suggest that the ship was once used to transport illegal tobacco between Italy and Turkey, and may even have been set on fire to hide the evidence. Uncover the mystery of the abandoned cargo ship to find out the truth.


The Mystery of the Fujikawa in Chuuk Lagoon 

Dive deep into the depths of Chuuk Lagoon and uncover the mystery of the Fujikawa. Built by Mitsubishi in 1938 and used as a liner in the North American run, the 450-foot-long vessel was later taken over by the Imperial Japanese Navy and converted into an aircraft ferry. 

Source: Emma Holman/Getty Images

After being hit by two torpedoes, the Fujikawa eventually sank in Chuuk Lagoon, which was considered the strongest Japanese stronghold in the Pacific during World War II. Jacques Cousteau’s 1971 television documentary made Chuuk Lagoon a popular diving destination, revealing the remains of the Fujikawa and other wrecks.


Explore the Mysterious Wreck of the Eduard Bohlen: A Journey to the Skeleton Coast 

Are you an adventure enthusiast looking for a unique experience? A visit to the Eduard Bohlen shipwreck, located along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, is sure to be an unforgettable journey. As a graveyard of wrecked ships, the Eduard Bohlen is notoriously difficult to access, requiring a special vehicle and licensed guide. 

Source: George Steinmetz/Getty Images

Yet, this shipwreck is a treat for the non-diver, as it lies nearly a mile inland after it hit land in 1909, while stuck in a thick fog. So, if you’re ready to explore the mysterious wreck, the Skeleton Coast awaits you!


The Sinking of the German Fleet: A Risky Gamble Gone Wrong 

On June 1919, during World War I, the Royal Navy destroyed the German fleet in Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands. The ships were to be surrendered and disarmed, but were instead being used as bargaining chips in Paris while peace talks were ongoing. 

Source: The Times (UK)

The crew was evacuated, leaving only a skeleton staff, and when German Fleet Commander, Von Reuter failed to realize that an armistice had been extended, he took a risky gamble and ordered that all the ships be scuttled.


Explore the Historic Wreck of HMS Vixen 

Built in England in 1864, the HMS Vixen was a behemoth gunboat whose hull was covered with teakwood. After sea trials, Vixen and her sister, Viper, were deemed too slow to sail and were towed to Bermuda in 1888 to serve as defense ships. 

Source: Reddit

By 1896, the ship’s machinery and engines had been removed, and Vixen was used to block a channel near Daniel’s Bay to thwart attacks. Today, the bow of the HMS Vixen is submerged in the waters, and visitors can explore it through snorkeling or glass-bottom boat tours.


Witness a Wonder of the Oregon Coast! 

Gaze in awe at the incredible sight of the Peter Iredale wreck on the Oregon Coast! This four-masted steel barque vessel, owned by the British company Iredale & Porter, has been here since 1906. It all began when the ship was leaving Santa Cruz, Mexico, headed for Portland to pick up wheat for the UK, when a storm hit and stranded it there. 

Source: Chad Ehlers/Getty Images

The wreck has now found a permanent home in Oregon, and has become a popular tourist attraction that visitors can come to experience any time of the day. So why not plan a visit and soak in this incredible sight?


Exploring the Uncharted Depths: Diving Palau's WWII Ship Graveyard 

Palau is home to its own WWII ship graveyard, boasting 60 wrecks for the adventurous diver. One of the largest is the Iro Maru, sunk in 1944 during the U.S. Navy’s Operation Desecrate 1. This nearly 470-foot long vessel lies 120 feet below the surface, with plenty of fish and corals having made it into a home. 

Source: Xavier DESMIER/Getty Images

However, divers should be aware that live ammunition remains strewn about the deck, so caution should be taken when descending to the lower parts. A sightseeing paradise for those who are up for the challenge, Palau’s ship graveyard is an incredible experience waiting to be discovered.


Uncovering Stories of the USS Kittiwake 

The USS Kittiwake was a submarine rescue ship that was launched on July 10, 1945, and decommissioned on September 30, 1994. During its 49 years of service, it traversed the seas, accompanying submarines during sea trials and underwater rescue missions. 


One of Kittiwake’s most significant achievements was finding the black box of the Challenger space shuttle following its disastrous crash in 1986. Its crew bravely ventured into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean to locate the box and bring it back to the surface. While many of the Kittiwake’s stories remain classified, its legacy lives on, and it was intentionally sunk to become an artificial reef in the British Cayman Islands.


The Mysterious Fate of the James McBride 

On April Fool’s Day 1848, the James McBride was launched. Some nine years later, the ship sailed to the Manitou Islands, loaded with a cargo of wood, which was destined for Chicago. On her return trip, a fierce gale blew her on to the shores of Sleeping Bear Dune, which became her final resting place.

Source: U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City

Her owner, John Stafford, was unperturbed by the turn of events, as he had made an impressive return on his initial investment of $4,000.


Discover the Secrets of the Ancient Melckmeyt 

Uncover the mystery of the Melckmeyt – the oldest known shipwreck in Iceland! Found just off the coast of the tiny island of Flatey, the 108-foot vessel has been submerged in 40 feet of water since it sank during a smuggler’s run gone awry in 1664. 

Source: Youtube

Delve into the secrets of the past with archaeologists who have gone wild studying the wreck and even created a virtual reality diving experience to celebrate its 360th birthday. Take the plunge and explore the hidden history of the “Milkmaid” today!


Sailing Through the Ages: The Incredible Story of the Vasa 

The Vasa, a 17th-century Swedish ship, is a remarkable tale of engineering gone wrong. On its maiden voyage out of Stockholm harbor, it tragically sank right before the eyes of astounded onlookers. Designed to be the most advanced ship of its time, it was soon revealed that the gun deck had been constructed by someone with no experience in shipbuilding. 

Source: AFP/Getty Images

Miraculously, the ship remained largely intact due to the cold and oxygen-poor waters. When it was rediscovered and raised in 1961, it was found to still be about 95 percent intact. Now, the remains of the Vasa are on display at Stockholm’s Vasa Museum for all to explore.


Visit the Remains of the Historic SS Atlantus at Sunset Beach 

Discover the remains of the historic SS Atlantus at Sunset Beach, New Jersey. Built in 1918 by the Liberty Ship Building Company in Brunswick, Georgia, the SS Atlantus was the first of the concrete ships produced by the U.S. as part of its World War I Emergency Fleet. 

Source: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Getty Images

It transported U.S. troops home from Europe and coal to New England until it was retired in 1920. In 1926, it was purchased by a colonel to become a ferry dock between Cape May and Cape Henlopen. However, a storm caused it to break free of its moorings and it now lies about 150 feet off the shore of Sunset Beach, and is a popular tourist destination.


The Epic Journey of the SS Maheno 

Once a luxurious cruise ship, the SS Maheno saw a dramatic change when it was repurposed during World War I and converted into a hospital ship, transporting casualties between Sydney and Melbourne. Later, it served in the United Kingdom, carrying patients from France to England. 

Source: Getty Images

In 1935, the Maheno was purchased by a shipbreaker in Osaka. However, a cyclone off the coast of Australia caused the towline to be severed and the ship now lies rusting on the beach. Unfortunately, visitors are unable to access the wreck as it’s deemed too dangerous.


Explore the Ruins of WWII at 'Shipwreck Beach' 

Discover the remains of a WWII-era ship at ‘Shipwreck Beach’, a notoriously hazardous spot in Lanai, Hawaii, famed for its strong winds and big swells. So it comes as no surprise that over a dozen ships have run aground there. Come explore the YOGN-42, a World War II-era fuel tanker, which is the main attraction at the beach as it’s not fully submerged. 

Source: Youtube

From afar, it appears just like a regular boat at anchor. Learn how it was made of ferroconcrete, a frame of metal mesh or steel-alloy rebar with a concrete mixture added in layers. Experience a bit of history and be awe-struck at Shipwreck Beach.


The Majestic SS Ayrfield - Homebush Bay's Reminder of a Bygone Era 

The SS Ayrfield is a majestic sight to behold, standing tall among the four abandoned ships in Australia’s Homebush Bay. Built in 1911, this former cargo freighter serves as a reminder of the Bay’s industrial past. 

Source: Simon Strupath/EyeEm/Getty Images

While the other boats remain untouched, the SS Ayrfield is unique in its beauty, with trees growing around it and giving it an almost ethereal quality. Homebush Bay was once a bustling hub of industry, but now it is a suburb of Sydney. The SS Ayrfield is a relic of an era long gone, but still remembered.


Unwanted Visitor: The Story of Panagiotis 

It was a sight that many beachgoers in Greece were not expecting; a shipwrecked vessel beached in the cove, looking like a funky piece of art. People were taking pictures in front of the Panagiotis and setting up their towels beside it. Little did they know, the ship had a hidden past. 

Source: Artur Debat/Getty Images

Back in 1983, the Panagiotis was run by smugglers carrying cigarettes and alcohol, and in a desperate attempt to escape authorities, the ship crashed into the cove. Now, decades later, the Panagiotis has become a permanent fixture on the beach, a reminder of a time when smugglers roamed the high seas.


Explore a Nuclear Test Blast Site - Sunken Aircraft Carrier at Bikini Atoll 

Take a journey to explore an incredible nuclear test blast site! The USS Saratoga, an 880-foot aircraft carrier, is sunk in Bikini Atoll, a nearby coral reef. It was sunk by a 1946 nuclear test blast, making it a unique and interesting sight to behold. 

Source: Sportdiver

Situated 30 hours away from the nearest airport, it’s a true adventure for those who wish to explore its wonders. Discover this incredible sunken aircraft carrier and the remnants of a past nuclear test sight.


Explore the Fascinating Shipwreck of the Hermes 

Discover the majestic shipwreck of the Hermes, an iconic vessel that was formerly operated by the Navy and built in Pennsylvania in 1943. Sitting upright in 80 feet of water, divers can explore this 165-foot-long wreck with ease. 

Source: Bermuda 100

Its structure is still remarkably intact, making it a popular destination for free divers. Despite its age, the Hermes is mostly free from marine growth, though it has become a home for many damsel fish. Embark on an incredible underwater journey and experience the captivating beauty of the Hermes in Bermuda!


The Sunken Ship: Unexpected Fate in Larnaca Bay 

The tragic story of the roll-on/roll-off ferry that never reached its destination in Syria is one that is still remembered today. In 1980 on her maiden voyage, the ship headed from Malmö to Syria met an unexpected fate beneath the clear waters of Larnaca Bay. It began listing to port due to a computer malfunction, pumping excess water into the ballast tanks. 

Source: Atlas Obscura

The captain was then ordered to take the ship out of the harbor and it eventually sank. The still loaded ship lies a mere 50 to 140 feet below the surface, and is easily seen from above.


Explore the Depths of the Sea Tiger! 

Take a dive into the depths of the Sea Tiger in Hawaii and explore the wonders of the deep! Once a vessel that housed 93 illegal Chinese immigrants, this boat was intentionally sunk off the coast of Waikiki Beach in 1999 and has since become an artificial reef, teeming with marine life such as moray eels, green sea turtles, and squirrelfish. 

Source: Alamy

With depths ranging from 80 to 127 feet, there’s plenty to explore. So grab your scuba gear and let’s go!


Explore the Historic Remains of the Dominator: An Adventure Awaits! 

Take a trip back in time and explore the historic remains of the Dominator, a freight ship that ran aground off the Palos Verdes Peninsula in 1961. As the wreckage is typically above the water line, no diving skills are required to get up close and personal with this rusting hulk. 

Source: Josh McNair,

To experience this unforgettable sight, start at Lunada Bay and take a leisurely stroll northwards to Palos Verdes Point, a mere half a mile away. Uncover the mysteries of the Dominator and embark on an adventure of a lifetime!