Marine Accidents: A Chronicle of 50 Tragic Events

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Marine accidents have shaped maritime history with their tragic and often harrowing tales. From legendary vessels like the Titanic to lesser-known but equally impactful incidents, these events serve as poignant reminders of the perils faced at sea. This article delves into 50 such occurrences, spanning centuries and continents, each leaving an indelible mark on our collective memory. Explore the chronicle of these maritime tragedies, revealing stories of heroism, disaster, and the enduring lessons learned from the unforgiving waters of the world.

1 CSS Hunley Sinkings

CSS Hunley Sinkings

The CSS Hunley, a Confederate submarine that became the first combat submarine to sink a warship, itself sank three times, killing her entire crew each time.


2. The U.S. Army used a program known as CHASE (Cut Holes And Sink ‘Em) in the 1960s to dispose of banned chemical weapons and munitions. They loaded the chemicals onto a ship, which they then purposely sank in the ocean.


3. In 1628, the Swedish warship Vasa, hailed as the most spectacular warship ever built, sank only 20 minutes into its maiden voyage, sailing less than a single nautical mile. Archaeologists found it was built asymmetrically. Workers used four rulers; two were based on Swedish feet with 12 inches, and the other two used Amsterdam feet with 11 inches.


4. In 2014, the South Korean passenger ferry MV Sewol sank, killing 306 people. Investigators later discovered that the crew’s safety training received only a budget of $2, which they used to purchase a paper certificate instead.


5. In 1998, a South Korean fishing net literally trapped a North Korean espionage submarine. As the South Korean navy towed it to port, the submarine sank. Upon salvage, they discovered that five of the nine-member crew had been executed and four had committed suicide.


6 Rainbow Warrior Bombing

Rainbow Warrior Bombingwidth=”620″ height=”330″ data-pin-nopin=”true” />

In 1985, the French foreign intelligence service bombed and sank the Greenpeace vessel named Rainbow Warrior while it was moored in Auckland, New Zealand. The vessel was planning to disrupt a French nuclear test.


7. In 1914, two years after the Titanic sank, the Empress of Ireland sank in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, losing 68.5% of all passengers, which was 0.5% more than the Titanic. World War I buried the event in the papers. The Empress took only 14 minutes to fully sink and still rests “structurally complete” under 40 meters of water.


8. When the Titanic sank in 1912, a designer was on board. The decision overruled his original design, which included features like a double hull, more watertight compartments, and twice as many lifeboats. He spent his final moments evacuating passengers, and no one ever recovered his body.


9. In 1942, as Japanese torpedoes slowly sank the USS Lexington, then the second-largest aircraft carrier in the Navy’s arsenal, the crew abandoned ship. However, they did not leave before breaking into the freezer and eating all the ice cream.


10. In 2020, a Venezuelan naval vessel clashed with a Portuguese cruise ship and lost. After opening fire, the Venezuelan patrol boat rammed the RCGS Resolute, a five-star ice-strengthened expedition cruise ship, and subsequently sank. The Resolute suffered only superficial damage.


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11 Felicity Ace Disaster

Felicity Ace Disaster

In 2022, Felicity Ace, a 60,000-ton cargo ship, sank while transporting new vehicles from Germany to the United States, sending 4,000 luxury cars, including Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, and Bentley models, to the bottom of the ocean.


12. In 1969, the American destroyer USS Frank E. Evans collided with an Australian aircraft carrier in the South China Sea at 3:00 a.m. because the commanding officer was asleep and left two inexperienced lieutenants in charge. The ship turned the wrong way, collided, and sank, killing 74 people.


13. The MS Estonia ferry sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994. It was one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters of the 20th century, leaving the ship and 852 passengers at the bottom of the sea. It is illegal to dive to it.


14. In 1820, an 80-ton sperm whale attacked and sank the Essex, a whaling ship from Nantucket, Massachusetts. This marine accident attracted international attention and inspired Herman Melville to write his famous 1851 novel, Moby-Dick.


15. Edgar Allan Poe penned a tale about four crewmen who became lost at sea and began to consume the cabin boy named Richard Parker. Forty-six years later, an English yacht sank, and the remaining four survivors in a lifeboat turned to eating the cabin boy, who was also named Richard Parker, after he fell ill.


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16 USS Scorpion Nuclear Torpedoes

USS Scorpion Nuclear Torpedoes

Two MK 45 nuclear torpedoes, each with a W34 11-kiloton nuclear warhead, lie on the ocean floor with the remains of the USS Scorpion nuclear-powered submarine, which sank in 1968.


17. In 1968, four submarines sank mysteriously. An Israeli sub vanished in January, and four days later, a French sub vanished without a trace. A Soviet sub exploded and sank in March, and in May, a US sub also exploded and sank. All their causes remain officially unknown.


18. In 1991, the cruise ship Oceanos sank. The crew abandoned the ship, leaving the passengers behind. Guitarist Moss Hills radioed for help and directed the rescue operation, saving everyone on board.


19. During the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, Allied planes sank 12 Japanese ships and killed over 3,000 enemy soldiers. This marine accident in 1943 eliminated any hope of a Japanese invasion of Australia. Tokyo announced two weeks later that they would teach all Japanese soldiers to swim.


20. During World War II, the Japanese battleship Mutsu suddenly exploded at anchor and sank. The Japanese navy conducted an investigation and determined that a disgruntled crewman’s suicide was likely the cause of the sinking.


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21 USS Oriskany Fire Incident

USS Oriskany Fire Incident

During the USS Oriskany fire, a sailor accidentally ignited a magnesium flare and, in a panic, tossed it back into a locker filled with 250 flares. This resulted in the deaths of 44 people, injuries to 156 others, and the near sinking of the aircraft carrier.


22. In 2004, a rented double-decker party barge carrying 60 people capsized and sank in front of Hippie Hollow, a nude park in Austin, Texas, when the passengers on board gathered on one side of the barge.


23. The S.S. Eastland, a small steamer, sank after being filled with so many lifeboats in the aftermath of the Titanic disaster that it became unstable. This marine accident led to the deaths of 844 people.


24. In 1961, an 11-year-old girl survived four days on a 2-foot by 5-foot raft after her family’s murder and the sinking of the boat she was on. She went years without knowing for sure who killed them.


25. The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, a non-stop, single-handed, round-the-world yacht race held in 1968-69, saw nine participants. Four retired before leaving the Atlantic Ocean, one retired after Cape Horn, one sank, one committed suicide, one abandoned the race, and only one completed it.


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