There are an estimated 3 million still-undiscovered shipwrecks scattered across the oceans’ floors worldwide. Some of these are thousands of years old.
Even the known, discovered wrecks amount to some impressive figures. Wrecksite.eu lists more than 148,000, and the number is continually increasing.
Most shipwrecks are considered historically important, which means they’re protected by the UNESCO as underwater cultural heritage sites.
Many shipwrecks are also abandoned and stay submerged or grounded near a beach. Sometimes they look graceful, sometimes they don’t — and most of them are decaying under the influences of nature.
The fun part is that many of them offer many photographic opportunities, which means they’ve turned into tourist destinations.
The most recent wreck to get major attention was the Costa Concordia shipwreck off the coast of Italy back in January 2012. The capsized ship brought in thousands of tourists to the region, before salvage operations began.
So, if you are wondering ‘what shipwrecks can you still visit?’, here are a few of our favourites.
Austronesian Expeditions via Flickr
Built in 1974, the MS World Discoverer did periodic trips to the Antarctic regions in order to let its passengers watch ice floes. The vessel’s double hull meant that it was protected against minor impacts.
Still, in 2000 the vessel hit a major uncharted rock in the Solomon Islands. After all passengers were safely removed to a ferry, the captain took the ship to Roderick Bay and ran it aground, to avoid a sinking.
The ship had been ransacked by locals by the time salvage companies were able to get aboard. It still sits on Nggela Island’s Roderick Bay.
The Sweepstakes isn’t just one of the best-preserved 19th century schooner wrecks which have ever been found — it’s also highly visible and easy to get to.
Lying at a depth of just 7 metres, the Sweepstakes is a favourite stop for divers and snorkelers in Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory, Canada.
Sweepstakes was built in 1867 and was 36,3m long. She was mostly used for transporting coal, until, 18 years after she was built, she sank in Big Tub Harbour after sustaining damage.
The wreck can no longer be entered as a result of deterioration caused by divers’ oxygen bubbles, but her surface can still be explored.
The Maheno used to be a trans-Tasman liner. However, while on the way towards a Japanese wrecking yard back in 1935, a cyclone forced her ashore.
Now the Mahano is a rusting hulk on Fraser Island in Australia — specifically on the sand island’s 75 mile beach. There, she is a stark contrast to the sands and ocean in the beautiful weather.
This Ionian Islands shipwreck is the reason the beach got the nickname “Smugglers Cove.” According to legend, the Panagiotis — wrecked on the beach in the first half of the 1980s — was on its way smuggling cigarettes, or maybe worse.
This boat’s rusting hull isn’t the only thing you can see there, though. The beach (also called Shipwreck Beach) also draws visitors for the clear, turquoise-tinted waters and its amazingly pristine sand. It’s also one of the world’s most popular BASE jumping locations — even though the only way to get there is by boat.
Bodrum, Turkey’s Uluburun wreck is perhaps the easiest of all to get to — it’s located in a museum.
The Uluburun sank off Turkey’s coast during the later part of the Bronze Age, and it’s one of the oldest ships which have ever been found. It’s almost 3500 years old.
A local sponge diver found the Uluburun off Turkey’s southwest coast back in the 1980s. Archaeologists spent 11 years studying it, picking out 20 tons worth of artefacts including fruit and nuts, pottery, jewelry, weapons, and tools.
Nobody knows who build the Uluburun or where the ship was going. Judging by the amount of gold on board the ship, somebody rich was likely involved.
The ship and its cargo, as well as a life size replica, are available at the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
Located off the Turks and Caicos Islands, the La Famille Express was wrecked under what historians call “mysterious circumstances” not too long ago in 2004. It was originally built in Poland in 1952, and spent most of its life in the Soviet Navy as the Fort Shevchenko.
The ship now lies in very shallow water, representing an attractive landmark and destination for tourists and boaters off the Turks and Caicos islands.
Namibia’s Eduard Bohlen is a very unusual wreck — it’s entirely buried under sand.
The Eduard Bohlen is stranded approximately a quarter mile off Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. The 2272-ton cargo ship wrecked there in 1909 during thick fog. In the years since, it’s drifted so far away from the water that it’s now totally landlocked.
This ship is a famous undersea mystery. It’s known only as the “Russian Wreck,” and it was discovered under 24m of water in 1988.
Some people say it was a fishing trawler called the Khanka, long believed to have sunk in the region. However, the electronic equipment on board — over 200 batteries, a communications mast, as well as direction-finding antennae — means it was probably used for communications or surveillance.
Rumors that it was a spy ship have their base in the way the Soviets liked using commercial vessels like fishing trawlers as covert intelligence gathering platforms during the 1950s. Many believe the Soviets had a nearby surveillance facility at Ras Karm Military Airbase in Yemen, in 1971.