While millions of ships of various types have been built and improved over the centuries, very few enjoy prominence in the public eye. Most that are remembered were warships or innovative vessels that helped push the design of ships to evolve. However, some ships have achieved notoriety through disastrous demise, whether due to violence, miscalculation or simple bad luck. Check out this list of some of the most legendary shipwrecks recorded in history.
Perhaps the most famous shipwreck in history, thanks in part to James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster about the doomed journey, the opulent British passenger liner Titanic sank in 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean during her maiden voyage. The ship hit an iceberg and sank, killing more than 1,500 of the 2,224 passengers and crew on board.
Queen Anne’s Revenge
Originally launched by the Royal Navy in 1710, the frigate was then captured by the French in 1711, who used it as a slave ship until it was seized by pirates in 1717 and used as a flagship by Blackbeard, one of the most notorious pirates in history. Although he possessed the ship for less than a year, Blackbeard and his crew used it to plunder plenty of treasure before running it aground in North Carolina, where they simply transferred their loot to smaller ships.
The Mary Rose
Belonging to the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII, this warship served for 33 years including battles against Brittany, France and Scotland. Her last action occurred in 1545 while attacking the galleys of a French invasion fleet when she sank in the straits north of the Isle of Wight known as the Solent.
Vasa (or Wasa)
Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, ordered this ship to be built, decorated in opulent fashion and armed primarily with bronze cannons, as he expanded military coverage during a war with Poland-Lithuania. The Vasa was heavily armed, making it top-heavy and unstable, which led to its ridiculously premature demise as it sank only a few minutes and around 1,400 yards into her maiden voyage in 1628 upon encountering a strong gust of wind.
Briefly holding the title as the world’s largest passenger ship, the luxurious British ocean liner Lusitania was nearly finished with her 202nd crossing, heading to Liverpool from New York City in 1915, when she was struck by a torpedo from a German submarine. Germany had declared the seas around the United Kingdom a war zone and this act of war caused a major diplomatic uproar, killing 1,198 of the 1,962 passengers.
Built by the United States Navy and commissioned in 1916, the Arizona, known as a Pennsylvania-class “super-dreadnought” battleship, was primarily stationed in the Pacific Fleet following travels to Europe and Turkey. The Arizona was bombed in Pearl Harbor by the Japanese during their infamous attack in 1941, during which she exploded and sank, resulting in the death of 1,177 officers and crewmen.
Built for Nazi Germany’s navy (Kriegsmarine), this battleship conducted just one offensive operation in its 8-month career in 1941, during which its mission was to break into the Atlantic Ocean and attack Allied shipping from Great Britain and North America. The Bismarck was detected and British naval units were sent to block it, one of which was destroyed and the other forced to retreat, resulting in heavy retaliation by the Royal Navy. The following days, the Bismarck was repeatedly attacked and dealt its final blow by biplane torpedo bombers, which finally sank it.