(Image: UltraPanavision; abandoned cruise ship World Discoverer)
We’ve looked at the haunting remains of a number of abandoned ships, from the SS America – which carried so many Europeans to a new life in the United States – to the SS Dominator, a Greek freighter whose twisted wreck can still be visited…. for now. This article examines a variety of vessels, bringing together some that we’ve already explored with others that we haven’t into a list that spans the globe from the shores of Canada to the coastlines of India. With that in mind, here are 11 abandoned ferries, opulent cruise ships, elegant ocean liners and retro hovercraft, each with its own, sometimes tragic, tale to tell.
Abandoned Cruise Ship: MS Lord Selkirk II (Manitoba, Canada)
Only days before Christmas of 2015, the Winnipeg Sun reported that the dismantling of the regally-named MS Lord Selkirk II was complete. The once equally-regal vessel had gone from holding the prestigious honour of being the largest cruise ship ever built between the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains to being called an eyesore and a hazard to public health and safety.
First launched in June of 1969, the MS Lord Selkirk II was once a getaway on water, carrying passengers up and down the Red River on overnight holidays. By 1990, the ageing cruise ship was deemed no longer financially viable, and was struck off charge.
Before a fire tore through the remains of the abandoned cruise ship, she would rust away in her namesake city of Selkirk. The last company to own her – and try to revitalize the rusting hulk – went bankrupt, and she simply sat. The fire proved to be the catalyst for her dismantling, a process that cost $400,000 by the time she was removed from the waters she once cruised.
Abandoned Ocean Liner: SS Independence (Alang, India)
Launched in February of 1951, the SS Independence was once the luxury ocean liner of choice for the great Hollywood stars of the day. Actors, directors and even presidents all walked the deck of this once-opulent vessel, but the future of the ship was very, very dim indeed.
After being transferred – and renamed – to Monrovia at the end of the 1970s, the 1980s saw the ship returning to the flag that it had been built under. But by 1996, operating costs had proved too high to keep the liner afloat, and it was retired to a dock in San Francisco. In 2001, after her owner had filed for bankruptcy, she was sold and resold – all on the way to being scrapped.
The once-elegant ship was the subject of considerable upheaval in 2009, when the Indian government forbid its entry to Alang, India, for scrapping because it was still loaded with all forms of toxic substances that no one wanted along their coastlines. After debates about forged documents and falsified paperwork, the abandoned ocean liner was finally beached off Alang and broken up.
SS United States (Philadelphia, USA)
(Images: © Laura S. Kicey for Philadelphia Magazine)
Once, the SS United States – the sister ship to the wrecked SS America – lived something of a double life. Built as a state-of-the-art luxury ocean liner, she was also quietly outfitted with a range of top secret equipment and partially funded by the US government, in case she was ever needed as a troop transport. The Soviet Union was gaining strength after World War Two, and emerging as the newest threat to the US at the same time she was being built, and no one was taking chances.
While that never happened, SS United States did make more than 800 transatlantic crossings, setting the record for the fastest crossing in just three days, 10 hours, and 42 minutes. No ship has ever broken the record.
Fast, perhaps, but not as fast as making the crossing by air. In the post-World War Two decades ocean travel became a thing of the past for passengers, and so too did the great ocean liners. Once a beautiful, opulent creature that carried thousands of people at a time, she was retired in 1969 and moved to a dock in Philadelphia. Today, she continues to float – and rust – while the granddaughter of her architect struggles to try to save her.
Abandoned Hovercraft (Green Cove Springs, Florida, USA)
Hovercraft could be the things of retro-futurism and expensive fun, and there’s one that’s rotting away at an abandoned US Navy base in Florida that still looks like something out of a science fiction novel. The former base at Green Cove Springs was abandoned in 1960, but it wasn’t until later that the nearby ATLAS Hovercraft, Inc failed in its bid to ship this one off to Chicago as part of a dinner cruise events programme.
In 2006, the idea of the hovercraft was on the cusp of becoming mainstream news, and ATLAS Hovercraft was planning on being at the forefront of that. It never happened, though, and hovercraft never became the ferries of the future on North America’s rivers and lakes. The abandoned hovercraft that now sits baking in the Florida sunshine never hosted a single soul, dumped there devoid of fittings and trimmings, nothing more than a gaunt, empty shell.
TSS Duke of Lancaster (Llanerch-y-Mor, North Wales)
The abandoned TSS Duke of Lancaster has had a rather strange sort of life. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, it operated as both a passenger ferry and cruise ship, with décor and restaurant service to compete with the very best. In that dual role, she was taken on regular, long cruises as a break from her day-to-day ferry service, skipping around the ocean from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean.
In August of 1979, the cruise ship was retired to a dock in North Wales with the intention of keeping it a destination point. She was going to be turned into The Fun Ship, a floating entertainment complex. Planning permission, fire codes and red tape kept that from happening, though, and she continued to sit and rust.
Since the failure of the plans to turn the ship into a leisure centre, she’s become something else – a canvas. Some of the best-known graffiti artists from across Europe were invited to come and start turning the hulk into something far removed from the eyesore that retired, rusting ships and abandoned ferries are often called.
Staten Island’s Abandoned Ferries (New York, USA)
(Images: Bob Jagendorf; abandoned ferries on Staten Island, NYC)
The Rossville Cemetery is a decrepit, overrun graveyard filled with stones that haven’t been legible for centuries. And just a stone’s throw away – through a soggy, marshy stretch of desolate land – is another kind of graveyard, the final resting place for scores of rusting, abandoned ships and other vessels. It’s been called the Witte Marine Equipment Scrap Yard or the Arthur Kill Boat Yard, but it’s the last home to wrecks that once plied the coastline where they now rot.
There’s something particularly eye-catching about the abandoned ferries. They were once such an important part of everyday life, the backbone of transportation to and from the different islands and boroughs of the New York City. They were what allowed people to commute, to make a living, to travel to and from Staten Island. Now, they rest in an undeniably eerie place, mere shells that still hold some vestige of their former glory.
Abandoned Cruise Ship: MS World Discoverer (Solomon Islands)
This German-built, now-abandoned cruise ship was constructed in 1974, with a double hull that allowed her the freedom to go places where others couldn’t: the icy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula. But like many vessels MS World Discoverer was sold and resold over the years, and finally ended up wrecked in a place you can easily find on Google Maps.
After years of transporting scientists and researchers to study the movements of ice floes and other natural phenomenon throughout the Northwest Passage, MS World Discoverer finally met her fate on a massive rock as the ship attempted to navigate Sandfly Passage in the Solomon Islands. The captain managed to beach the ship where it lay, preventing the foundering vessel from sinking completely. The abandoned cruise ship has since been extensively looted, but it remains a popular and slightly ironic sight on other tourist cruises through the area.
There was a second World Discoverer, too, a refurbished vessel that only briefly served in the same role for the Society Expedition, before the company declared bankruptcy in 2004.
V-class Abandoned Ferry: Queen of Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada)
(Images: Rick Ruppenthal; the abandoned ferry Queen of Vancouver before last voyage)
The now-defunct Queen of Vancouver was one of a handful of similar ferries built in the early 1960s and tasked with shuttling people and vehicles around the Salish Sea. These were the V-class ferries, ships that had some issues from the beginning. It wasn’t long after they were built that the vessels underwent some major modifications, including being cut in half to add another car deck.
The four that were cut and expanded – the Queen of Vancouver, the Queen of Victoria, the Queen of Saanich, and the Queen of Esquimalt – were the only ones to keep their V-class designation. And while they were active, they were invaluable, transporting people back and forth from the mainland to the Tsawwassen Penninsula and across the bay.
The abandoned Queen of Vancouver was only retired in 2008, and that retirement was a short one. After only a few years of sitting in her moorings, she was taken to Ensenada, Mexico and scrapped.
Lyubov Orlova, Ghost Ship (Location Unknown)
(Image: via Wikipedia; ghost ship Lyubov Orlova off Petermann Island)
Russian movie star Lyubov Orlova gave her name to this 1970s-era Yugoslavian cruise ship that, in its heyday, was used mostly for cruises through the Antarctic. She was refurbished in 1999 and in 2002, but by 2010, she was seized for non-payment of debts. The ship was impounded in Newfoundland, and that was only the start of the urban legends that surround her.
In 2012 Lyubov Orlova was sold, destined to be broken up for scrap. And she would have been, had she not made an escape from the tug that was escorting her to her fate. Attempts to reconnect the ships failed, and the Lyubov Orlova drifted off to sea. The abandoned cruise vessel had officially become a ghost ship.
She was sighted several more times, heading out to international waters where it was hoped she would cease to be a threat to other ships and oil drilling operations. But a report from Ireland put her off the coast of Kerry in March of 2013, and it wasn’t until January of 2014 that Lyubov Orlova was the subject of an article in The Sun that claimed the abandoned cruise ship was headed for the British coast, carrying a ravenous cargo of cannibal rats. The story was, of course, not true, and it’s thought that the ghost ship Lyubov Orlova has since sunk.
Abandoned Hovercraft Graveyard, Belapur, India
(Images: Chris Searle; the abandoned hovercraft graveyard in Belapur)
At first, the venture seemed promising. Two hovercraft, Triton-I and Triton-II, were slated to make a series of runs back and forth from Chowpatty Beach and Juhu starting in 1996. There was certainly no shortage of passengers, with somewhere around 1,000 people boarding the British-made hovercraft each day.
But the venture was tangled in red tape and bureaucracy. Originally, the government promised that access points and jetties would be built as docks for the craft; promises that were never kept. The government did give the company land to stage their operations from, but they were met by strong opposition from local fishermen who made it a point to block the way of the direct-route ferries.
The ill-fated venture only lasted for two years, and the last time the air-cushion vehicles beached themselves was in April of 1998. Since then they have sat silently in this abandoned hovercraft graveyard, a reminder of yet another failed business venture that had all the makings and promise of a successful operation.
Wreck of the Costa Concordia, Genoa, Italy
The fate of the cruise ship Costa Concordia is one of the most heartbreaking tragedies in recent maritime history. Only hours after leaving port and only a stone’s throw from land, the cruise liner collided with a rocky outcrop. In the end, 32 of the more than 4,000 souls on board perished, and the ship’s captain was found guilty of manslaughter and accused of abandoning his ship – claiming that he only fell into the lifeboat by accident.
The salvage operation to clean up the wreck of the Costa Concordia went down as one of the largest of its kind in history as crews wrestled with an abandoned cruise ship that had been largely crushed under its own weight. It was a mind-boggling process that required massive support platforms to be built beneath the wreck in order to re-float the sunken vessel. (In the process, the remains of the final person unaccounted for, a crew-member named Russel Rebello, were found.)
Once the abandoned cruise ship was rolled into a more upright position, air was pumped into the wreck’s caissons to lift the Costa Concordia from the seabed. Gradually, the wreck of the Costa Concordia was refloated and moved into deeper waters, before being towed back to the Italian port city of Genoa for scrapping. The salvaging was estimated to cost in the region of $1.2 billion.