According to the UN there are some 3 million shipwrecks currently dotting the ocean floor, all victims of freak weather, devastating combat wounds, and/or shoddy craftsmanship somewhere along the way. And while a great deal remain undiscovered, thankfully there's an entire universe of gorgeously deteriorated remnants that've been spotted and photographed by daring divers and unsuspecting search crews over the years.
To give you a taste of what's going on way down deep, we've pulled together 15 of the world's most hauntingly beautiful wrecks.
The World's 15 Most Hauntingly Beautiful Shipwrecks
1. Shinkoku Maru
Launched by the Japanese Navy in 1939, this 500-foot fleet oiler is best known for its role in Pearl Harbor as part of Admiral Nagumo's strike force. It was later torpedoed by an American sub while docked at Truk Lagoon, and has become one of the world's most popular wreck diving destinations.
2. The Lina
In the early 1900s this cargo ship was regularly schlepping lumber between Croatia and Italy, but in 1914 it found itself in the heart of a rough storm, hit a reef, and went down in the Adriatic near the northern cape of Cres Island. It's largely intact, and a hugely popular diving spot.
3. The Russian Wreck
Discovered in the Southern Red Sea in 2003, this ship was originally thought to be a trawler that went down in the area, but most experts now believe it's actually a Cold War-era Russian spy ship. For obvious reasons, there's little to no more information about it.
4. The Paul Palmer
This five-masted schooner was built in 1902 and used primarily in the coal trade. In 1913, it set off from Maine for Virginia to pick up a load, but caught fire for unknown reasons and sunk. It wasn't discovered until 2000 when environmental researchers stumbled upon it, and has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
5. The Mars
One of the best-preserved vessels of its kind (Europe's first generation of huge three-masted ships), this stunning Swedish warship was downed along with its crew in 1564 during an epic naval battle against the Germans on the Baltic Sea.
6. The Baltic Sea Ghost Ship
Sunk: 17th Century
Discovered by accident in 2003 during a search for a Swedish spy plane shot down during the Cold War, this wreck was the focus of a full-scale underwater archaeological expedition in 2010, when it was determined the fluyt-style ship was likely built by the Dutch in 1650.
7. The Umbria
Built by the Germans and later taken over by the Italians, this huge cargo ship—which was carrying a motherlode of bombs, detonators, and other weapons to the East African coast—was intentionally sunk by its discerning captain the day Mussolini announced Italy was entering World War II.
8. S.S. Thistlegorm
During a scheduled voyage from Glasgow to Egypt, this British armed merchant naval ship—filled with limited war supplies and train locomottives—was sunk after two German bombers attacked, suspecting it was actually a troop carrier. It wasn't discovered for more than a decade later, when Jacques Cousteau began poking around the area on intel provided by local fishermen.
9. Dunnottar Castle
Sunk: 19th Century
Discovered less than 10 years ago, researchers have concluded that this 258-foot iron-hulled cargo ship was built in 1874 and en route from Australia to California with a load of coal when it hit a reef off the coast of Hawaii at full speed.
10. The Giannis D
Carrying a load of timber between Yugoslavia and Saudi Arabia, much of the Giannis D's final voyage was unremarkable until its captain turned the controls over to some junior officers to catch some shuteye. Shortly after he was startled awake when the ship smacked full-speed into a reef while on the open waters of the Red Sea.
11. S.S. President Coolidge
Constructed in 1931 as a luxury cruise liner, the Coolidge was repurposed as a troopship after Pearl Harbor but was sunk by mines when it made a wrong approach while attempting to dock on the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Thankfully since it was in port at the time it hit the mines, nearly everyone on board was able to safely escape to shore.
12. The Sweepstakes
In commission for just over a decade before its demise, the Canadian Sweepstakes schooner was towed to safety in Big Tub Harbour after being damaged off Lake Huron's Cove Island, but couldn't be repaired and sunk right there in the shallow water.
13. S.S. Gairsoppa
Built as a merchant ship in 1919, the 400-foot Gairsoppa was enlisted to serve in World War II, which is when it met its demise at the hands of a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland. Its discovery in 2011 was followed shortly thereafter by a mission to recover its precious cargo: £150 million worth of silver bullion.
14. The Joni
Sunk: 4th Century
This ancient wreck in the Adriatic off the coast of Albania is devoid of much of the vessel itself, but its cargo—predominantly amphora pottery—is enough to trace it back to ancient Roman trade routes.
15. The RMS Rhone
Regularly shuttling between Southampton, the Caribbean, and South America, this U.K. Royal Mail Ship safely carried mail, passengers, horses, and cargo on many journeys, but was upended by a strong hurricane in the British Virgin Islands, sending it and the 123 people on board to the ocean floor.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor and a big, big fan of Dramamine.
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