Shipwrecks

The building of ships has been essential to our development as a species in terms of travel, communication and understanding the world around us. As a result the number of shipwrecks on the ocean floor is far too numerous to list; there are an estimated quarter of a million shipwrecks lying off Britain's coastal waters alone...

shipwreck

The Titanic was one of the largest movable objects ever built - one sixth of a mile long, 104 feet high from keel to bridge and 92 feet wide, weighing a whopping 46,328 tons. It wasn't until 1985 the wreckage was located at 12,500 feet on the bottom of the Atlantic. Perhaps even more remarkable, the model in James Cameron's 1997 film was built 90 per cent to scale. It took three years to build, the same amount of time it took to make the film!

The greatest loss of life in a shipwreck came on 30 January 1945, when a German ocean liner The Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by three torpedoes from the Soviet submarine S-13 in the Baltic Sea. Over 10,000 mainly civilian Germans from Gotenhafen in the Gdansk Bay were on board and over 9,000 died.

The Bermuda Triangle is a mysterious region of ocean in which dozens of planes and ships are believed to disappear without trace. One of the most famous cases was that of Flight 19 on 5 December 1945, which disappeared while on a training mission over the Atlantic. According to several reports the flight leader reported the ocean 'not looking as it should' and his compass spinning out of control, before simply disappearing. The Navy's official report of the accident was ascribed to 'causes or reasons unknown'.

In 1982 a Turkish sponge diver discovered a wreck off the south coast of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea near Antalya. It was recovered using techniques of underwater excavation in 11 consecutive campaigns each lasting up to four months over the next decade. Named the Uluburun Ship, experts dated the wreck as dating to the late Bronze Age, tracing parts of it to trees felled around 1400 BC, making it the world's oldest recovered shipwreck.

In 1872 an abandoned ghost ship named the Marie Celeste was found off the coast of Portugal. Although there was three and a half feet of water in the hold, it was otherwise in good condition - yet the crew were missing. The captain's log reported no incident and it seemed that everyone had left while in the middle of their daily routine. The mystery remains unsolved.

An English trading ship returning from China called the Octavius was found drifting off the coast of Greenland in 1775. The captain's log showed that the ship had attempted the Northwest Passage, which by that point had never been successfully traversed. When recovered, it became clear that this ghost ship and the bodies of her frozen crew had been drifting among the pack ice for 13 years.