Special Report

25 of the Most Famous Shipwrecks Ever Found

Source: MPI / Archive Photos via Getty Images

> Found: Irish coast
> Sunk: 1915

When the Lusitania launched in 1906, it was the largest ship in the world. An ocean liner operating in the transatlantic passenger trade, the Lusitania was known for its speed, setting a record for fastest Atlantic crossing in 1907. After 202 successful Atlantic crossings, it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1915. Almost 1,200 passengers and crew died when the ship sank off the coast of Ireland. Many of the ship’s artifacts have been recovered throughout the years and are on display at museums around the world.

La Belle
> Found: Gulf of Mexico
> Sunk: 1686

In 1684, the French ship La Belle, along with three other ships belonging to the explorer La Salle, set sail for the Mississippi River with 300 settlers aiming to colonize the area. The ships veered hundreds of miles off course into the Matagorda Bay off the coast of Texas. La Belle sank in the bay during a storm in 1686 and wasn’t discovered until 1995 by marine archaeologists. The hull has been recovered, along with many artifacts including tools, trade goods, weapons, and personal items of the would-be settlers, all of which are displayed in the Bullock Museum in Texas.

Source: U.S. Library of Congress

The Sultana
> Found: Arkansas
> Sunk: 1865

Designed to carry no more than 376 passengers, this commercial steamship was overloaded with 2,137 people – many of them Union Army prisoners of war who were being shipped back north – when three boilers exploded and sank the ship in the Mississippi River near Memphis, Tennessee. Over 1,200 passengers died in the wreck. As the river changed course multiple times over the next century, the remains of the Sultana were found buried under an Arkansas soybean field in 1982, about four miles from Memphis.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

USS Hornet
> Found: Solomon Islands
> Sunk: 1942

The USS Hornet, the aircraft carrier that launched the famed WWII Doolittle Raid against Tokyo, was later sunk by Japanese torpedoes during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Though 2,000 sailors were able to escape, 140 died on the sinking ship. In another discovery made by Paul Allen’s R/V Petrel, the USS Hornet’s remains were located more than three miles underwater off the Solomon Islands.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Pere Marquette 18
> Found: Lake Michigan
> Sunk: 1910

On September 9, 1910, while carrying a cargo of 30 rail cars from Michigan to Wisconsin, the Pere Marquette 18 began taking on water for unknown reasons. Although the crew threw some rail cars overboard, the ship eventually went down, claiming the lives of 29 crew and passengers, while 32 people survived the wreck. Shipwreck hunters have been searching for the Marquette ever since, and in July of 2020, two Minnesota hunters discovered the ship’s hull nearly 500 feet underwater. Local historians hope that the find may finally shed light on why the Pere Marquette 18 sank.

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