Editor’s Note – Monthly Ticket is a CNN Travel series that sheds light on some of the most fascinating topics in the world of travel. In October, we’re focusing on the quirky, spotlighting everything from (allegedly) haunted spaces to abandoned places.
(CNN) — In March 2022, the world let out a collective sigh when the remarkably preserved wreck of Ernest Shackleton’s HMS Endurance was discovered nearly two miles below the icy seas of Antarctica.
But dozens of other sunken ships lie at the bottom of the ocean, awaiting rediscovery.
Here are some of the world’s most elusive shipwrecks, plus some you can see for yourself (some without even getting wet).
A lowly cabin boy took responsibility for the sinking of Christopher Columbus’ flagship Santa Maria off the coast of Haiti on Christmas Eve 1492. The inexperienced sailor is said to have taken to the wheel after Christopher Columbus went to take a nap, and shortly afterwards overturned the ship by crashing it into a coral reef.
It’s a theory, anyway. However the Italian explorer’s ship met its fate, excitement boiled over in May 2014 when archaeologist Barry Clifford claimed he had stumbled upon his long-lost wreck.
The hearts of maritime history buffs sank after UNESCO poured cold water on the claim, saying the ship that was found belonged to a much later period.
The Santa Maria is still out there somewhere.
Flower of the Sea, Sumatra
A replica of the Flor de la Mar stands in front of the Maritime Museum in Malacca, Malaysia.
This 16th century merchant ship – or “carrack” – shuttled between India and its home in Portugal. But given its gigantic size – 118 feet long and 111 feet high – it was an unwieldy beast.
It may have been only a matter of time before the Flor de la Mar sank, which it did in a heavy storm off Sumatra, Indonesia in 1511.
Most of the crew perished, and his loot – said to include the entire personal fortune of a Portuguese governor, worth $2.6 billion in today’s money – was lost.
SS Waratah, Durban (South Africa)
It may not have its own theme song sung by Celine Dion, but the SS Waratah is known as “Australia’s Titanic” – and for good reason.
A passenger freighter built to travel between Europe and Australia with a stopover in Africa, the Waratah disappeared shortly after leaving the city of Durban in present-day South Africa in 1909, just three years before the tragedy. of the Titanic. As to the cause, theories abound.
The entire liner, with eight cabins, a music lounge and all 211 passengers and crew, has never been found. Ninety years after the sinking of the Waratah, the National Submarine and Marine Agency thought they had finally found it, but it was a false alarm.
The late thriller writer Clive Cussler, who spent much of his life searching for the wreckage, said: “I guess she’s going to continue to be elusive for a bit longer.”
USS Indianapolis, Philippine Sea
Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer” might rack up 17% rancidity for Nicolas Cage’s 2016 film, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage,” but in real life, the ship played a pivotal role in World War II.
Indianapolis was chosen to transport the uranium core of the “Little Boy” nuclear bomb to Tinian Island, where the weapon was assembled shortly before being used to devastating effect on Hiroshima.
The disembarkation of the deadly cargo went without a hitch, but on her return voyage the Indianapolis was hit by a Japanese submarine, and many of the crew perished from shark attacks and to salt poisoning.
The warship’s exact whereabouts remained a mystery for decades, but was finally located by a team led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2017, 18,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific.
Slave ships, North Atlantic Ocean
A man takes a photo of a hoist, one of many artifacts recovered from sunken São José.
Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images
Not just a shipwreck, but a whole gruesome genre.
It is estimated that around 1,000 ships currently at the bottom of the ocean were complicit in the nasty “triangular trade” across the Atlantic which saw some 12-13 million Africans enslaved.
Many of these ships sank in rough weather, such as the São José, which sank off South Africa in 1794.
Others, like the Clotilda, were deliberately scuttled by their owners, to conceal evidence of the slave trade, long after the 1807 law banning the importation of slaves.
The wrecks of these two ships have now been located – the São José thanks to the work of Diving With a Purpose (DWP), a group of largely black divers who dive at the sites of sunken slave ships and bring people in as rusty handcuffs and iron weights on the surface.
It is impossible to recover such objects without also unearthing stories of human suffering, although DWP’s goal is to document the harmful legacy of slavery, using it to educate and enlighten.
Yet these ships are notoriously elusive, and many may never see the light of day again.
Wrecks you can visit
Mehmed Çakir was diving for sponges off Yalıkavak, Turkey in 1982 when he came across the remains of a trading vessel that sank here some 3,000 years earlier.
It was the first of many dives – more than 22,400 in fact – to bring up the long-lost treasures of Uluburun, and what spoils it was; 10 tons of copper ingots; 70,000 glass and earthenware beads; olive oil and pomegranates stored in Cypriot pottery jars.
Part of the horde can now be seen at the Bodrum Underwater Archeology Museum, and although not much remains of the Bronze Age wreckage, there is a cross-sectional reconstruction , which gives an idea of how she would have been stacked with all those possessions, all those centuries ago.
The Vasa, Stockholm
The Vasa is now on display in a museum in Stockholm.
Anders Wiklund/AFP/Getty Images
Strangely intact, the 17th century warship Vasa looks more like a prop from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise than a ship that first (and last) set sail in 1628.
The Swedish giant emerged from the harbor some 1,300 meters before sinking and was only pulled from its loamy grave 333 years later.
A team of archaeologists (who took shots for typhoid and tetanus to protect themselves from various bacteria) have discovered a hull bristling with 700 carvings and decorations of mermaids, lions and biblical figures – which has been described as essentially a “gigantic billboard for Sweden and Gustav II Adolf”, the country’s fearsome king at the time.
Since the opening of a dedicated museum in Stockholm in 1990, the Vasa has become one of the least elusive shipwrecks in the world, ogled so far by some 25 million visitors.
MV Captayannis, River Clyde
Spyed from the banks of the River Clyde in Greenock, Scotland, you might mistake the wreck of the MV Captayannis for a recently extinct whale.
The black hull of this Greek sugar boat, rolled up on its side, has been a favorite perch for the feathered inhabitants of a nearby bird sanctuary – and has been since the vessel sank in a flurry in January 1974.
No one is said to have taken responsibility for the so-called “sugar boat”, hence why it’s still stuck in a sandbar – a clumsy reminder of the vagaries of the sea.
Still, it’s a blessing for local boat charters like Wreckspeditions, which will take maritime rubberneckers up close, while pouring them hot chocolate.
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
If scuba diving is what floats your boat, chances are you’ve heard of Chuuk Lagoon.
On this sprinkling of islands 1,000 miles northeast of Papua New Guinea, the Japanese established their most formidable naval base of World War II, that is, until the launch of the Operation Hailstone in 1944, Allied forces sent about 60 Japanese ships and planes into a watery grave.
With most of them still there, Chuuk Lagoon has become a cutesy underwater museum for divers who can admire the barnacled tanks of the San Francisco Maru or the long-abandoned compass and motor telegraphs of the Nippo Maru.
MS World Discoverer, Solomon Islands
“Open 24 hours a day,” says Google Maps optimistically of the sinking of the MS World Discoverer.
Since the cruise ship MS World Discoverer hit something hard and half sank off Roderick Bay in the Solomon Islands in 2000, it has become a tourist attraction for passing ships (all passengers must point out, were helped to safety).
Rusting gently, at a list of 46 degrees, the ship appears to have rolled onto its side and fallen asleep. If nothing else, you’ll be counting lifeboats on your own ship as you pass.
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Famous shipwrecks missing – and some that have been found – Reuters
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