In addition to their natural beauty and forbidding, often uncharted depths, the world’s oceans are a repository of history and a treasure-trove of man-made relics that span the ages. From the sunken remnants of ancient cities and submerged plane wrecks to the most famous shipwrecks in history, the oceans offer a largely unexplored final frontier immediately beyond our shores. This article examines some of the most impressive shipwrecks yet discovered, both under and above the waves, coupled with a selection of abandoned boat and ship graveyards in extreme corners of the earth. (Above: the wreck of Russian battlecruiser Murmansk, Norway.)
Wreck of SS American Star (SS America), Fuerteventura
The battered remains of the magnificent SS American Star represent one of the world’s most documented shipwrecks. Originally called SS America and considered by many to be the most beautiful liner ever to fly the US flag, the vessel, which was launched in 1940 for the United States Line, ran aground off the Canary Islands in 1994. At the time of its wrecking, SS American Star had been under tow to Phuket, Thailand. Originally slated for scrap, her fortunes had changed when the breakers defaulted on payment, affording a new lease of life as a floating hotel in Southeast Asia. But in a cruel twist of fate, the ship’s tow lines broke in stormy weather and she foundered on a reef off Fuerteventura. Her wreck became one of the most widely recognised shipwreck images, but two decades of relentless pummeling by the sea have reduced the historic liner to a barely-visible pile of twisted steel.