The RMS Titanic may probably the most famous (or infamous) sunken ship in the world. Her ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912 has become legendary over the years, and her legacy has been immortalized in countless books, films, and exhibits. More importantly, the disaster — which caused a huge number of casualties — has led to the significant improvements of maritime safety.
But the Titanic is not even the largest sunken ship ever, nor her history is as interesting as that of the following ships that you are going to read below:
1. HMHS Britannic
The HMHS Britannic is the biggest sunken ship ever — even bigger than the Titanic. The construction of the Britannic was completed in 1915, three years after the sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic. What’s more, the Britannic and the Titanic were sister ships, both having been built by the same company, White Star Line.
The Britannic was given significant improvements and reinforcements. A few extra lifeboats were also added. She was originally intended as a passenger cruise ship, but when World War I broke out, she was put to service as a hospital ship instead.
Unlike the Titanic, the Britannic lasted for a year before she sank off the Greek coast in 1916. Instead of an iceberg, she was brought down due to an explosion caused by an enemy torpedo. The Britannic may not be as famous or ill-fated as the Titanic because most of the people on the ship survived — out of 1,065 people on board, only about 30 died.
In 1975, French explorer Jacques Cousteau discovered the wreck on the ocean floor and took note of her nearly intact condition. Many expeditions of the Britannic have been conducted since then.
2. RMS Lusitania
Another British ocean liner, the RMS Lusitania was launched in 1906 and had its maiden voyage in 1907, a few years before Titanic was set to sail.
During its time, the Lusitania was the biggest ship in the world until the launch of its sister ship RMS Mauretania. Like the Britannic, the Lusitania sank during World War I by an enemy fire.
A German U-boat torpedoed the Lusitania in 1915, which caused the ship to its ultimate demise. What’s more, the incident brought a big diplomatic stir. The Germans were accused of firing a non-military vessel without warning, therefore violating international war laws. But the British weren’t spared from the legal mess either, as they secretly used the Lusitania to carry war weapons with the belief the Germans won’t bother to fire it.
The wreck of the Lusitania now lies near the lighthouse of the Old Head of Kinsale in County Cork, Ireland. She is now deteriorating so badly that it won’t be long before the ship would collapse on her own completely.
3. Nuestra Senora de Atocha
The Nuestra Senora de Atocha (Our Lady of Atocha) was the most well-known of the fleet of Spanish ships that sank off the Florida Keys in 1622.
The Atocha was set to sail from Spain to Havana, laden with massive amounts of treasures such as gold, silver, copper, gems (including the rare Muzo emeralds), jewels as well as tobacco and indigo. Unfortunately, a strong hurricane ultimately put the ship — and all the people on board — to her ultimate end.
Although attempts had been made to recover the precious cargo since after the ship sank, in 1985 a professional treasure hunter Mel Fisher finally found the fallen Spanish galleon. The “Atocha Motherlode” was valued at an estimated $450 million. With the sunken bonanza this massive and valuable, it’s not surprising that Fisher was met with opposing entities, including the State of Florida who also wanted to get hold of the treasures. In the end, though, the Supreme Court ruled in Fisher’s favor and transferred 75% of the treasure’s appraised value to his ownership.
4. Whydah Gally
Also known as simply Whydah or Whidah, the Whydah Gally was a fully rigged ship that also tripled as a cargo, passenger and slave ship. In April 1717, she was captured by a group of pirates led by Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy. He and his gang went on to capture other ships.
Whydah Gally was wrecked and capsized due to a violent storm as she was reaching America. While Bellamy died in the disaster, two of his crew members survived, along with seven other people who had been held captive by Bellamy. Most of the survivors were later hanged on grounds of piracy, while a few either fled or were sold as slaves.
For the next 260 years or so, the whereabouts of the Whydah remained obscure until it was finally discovered in 1984. Along with the discovery of the wreck, the treasure trove in it was also recovered. The cache was valued at an estimated $400 million.
5. Queen Anne’s Revenge
Queen Anne’s Revenge was an English frigate which had been held captive by the notorious pirate Edward Teach, aka “Blackbeard,” in 1717. The ship met her tragic fate when she ran aground in the shores of North Carolina. Historians thought that the incident was rather planned.
Queen Anne’s Revenge‘s whereabouts remained a mystery until a wreck was discovered by a private firm in 1996. But it took quite long before the identity of Queen Anne’s Revenge was positively confirmed.