Graveyard Shift
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These Were Some Of The Most Tragic Shipwrecks In History

Updated September 23, 2021 359.6k views15 items

Creepy shipwrecks are some of the scariest abandoned places in the ocean, especially those shipwrecks that end in cannibalism, and there are too many of them to count. Treacherous weather, tricky geographic features, sheer bad luck, human error - a million things can go wrong at sea. And if these shipwrecks are anything to go by, they often do.

These old shipwrecks were discovered around the world, and they're as diverse as they come. From old whaling ships still floating in Antarctic waters to ships that were found by chance covered in sand, many of these old ghost ships have a tale or three to tell. In some, you can even glimpse the life left behind by passengers who perished, and other ships are filled with precious historical artifacts.

From doomed Russian cruisers to the shipwreck that began the settlement of Bermuda, a world of mysterious, tragic, compelling, and sometimes beautiful shipwrecks is out there. An underwater graveyard going back decades or centuries might even be in your own backyard. Take a look at this global sampling of shipwrecks to see if any ghost ships are in your neighborhood.

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  • The Governoren

    Photo: Christopher Michel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    In Foyn Harbor, Enterprise Island, Antarctica, lies the wreck of the Governoren, a massive ship that went down at the turn of the 20th century. In 1915, this large whaling factory ship - capable of rendering a whale into whale oil on board - ran into trouble one night when a crew member might have knocked a lamp off a table during a party.

    Considering the Governoren was full of thousands of gallons of whale oil meant to be taken back to Norway, the whole ship quickly caught fire. While all 85 crew members were able to escape unharmed, the burned remains of the ship still drift aimlessly through frigid Antarctic waters.

  • The Dunedin Star

    Photo: Robert Raderschatt / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Shipwrecked on Namibia's treacherous Skeleton Coast, this ship ran aground during WWII, stranding a crew of 85 with 21 passengers attempting to escape London. Several rescue attempts failed, and the plane sent to drop supplies for the poor survivors fell into the sea. Though the crew and passengers were ultimately rescued, several of their rescuers perished in the process.

    Today, the wreck of the Dunedin Star is one of the thousands of eerie shipwrecks half-covered in the sands of the Skeleton Coast .

  • Nanhai One

    Photo: Zhangzhugang / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    China's largest ever marine archeological discovery, Nanhai One, went down in the southern province of Guangdong during the Song dynasty of 1127-1279. The almost 1,000-year-old wreck was raised from the sea bed in 2007 to reveal over 60,000 historical and valuable items. The treasures ranged from pottery to precious metals - enough to fill a museum dedicated to the discovery. 

    Nanhai One was accidentally discovered by a British-Chinese expedition trying to find a completely different shipwreck. During its heyday, the ship is believed to have taken part in the Marine Silk Road, which allowed trade between China, India, the Middle East, and Africa in ancient times. 

  • The Mystery Shipwreck Covered In Sand

    Video: YouTube

    Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New Jersey, but it also uncovered a few massive, if old, shipwrecks. One was a massive 100- to 200-foot wooden ship in the Barnegat Inlet that had been hidden under the sand for nearly 100 years.

    It was uncovered during a construction project, almost perfectly preserved. Historians think it was a coal-carrying schooner from the late 1800s.