Ship Graveyards: Abandoned Ships, Boats and Shipyards

Shipwrecks and Abandoned Vessels

(Images: Left & Right by Frederic Logghe, cc-sa-3.0; Bottom image by Stuart Williamson)

While this article primarily examines “above-water” shipwrecks, some of the most impressive “abandoned” ships live on beneath the waves.  This spectral vessel is the HMHS Britannic, not as famous as her legendary sister Titanic, but arguably one of the world’s most spectacular – and ghostly – wrecks.  Britannic was sunk by a mine in November 1916 while serving as a hospital ship in the Aegean Sea.

(Images: divenorway; UK Government, public domain; James Myatt, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Grand liners like Titanic and Britannic may have a romantic edge (in part due to Hollywood) over merchant and military shipping, but the latter has contributed many wrecks to the ocean floor – some of which can still be seen above the surface of the water.  Aircraft carriers and battleships are among the most impressive, their massive guns encrusted with marine life that still look foreboding to this day.  These rusty wrecks include Soviet cruiser Murmansk, lost in 1994 while under tow to India for scrapping, and German battlecruiser Hindenburg, scuttled at Scapa Flow, Orkney.

(Images: 1, 2, 3 by Yannick Auberger, cc-sa-3.0)

With the exception of supertankers, aircraft carriers are among the largest ships ever built, offering up a fortune in scrap metal after they’re taken out of service.  French carrier Clemenceau was set to be scrapped in India before protests from environmental groups scuppered the plans.  The heavily contaminated ship is currently being decomissioned by a specialist team at Hartlepool, UK, but scrapping an aircraft carrier can be a complex process.

(Images: U.S. Federal Government, public domain)

Sinking one, on the other hand, can be achieved far more quickly, as was the case with USS Oriskany scuttled off the coast of Florida to become the world’s largest artificial reef.  Oriskany is now fondly known as the Great Carrier Reef in a nod to the popular Australian dive spot, and was named one of the top ten dive sites in the world by The Times of London in 2007.

(Image: amateur_photo_bore, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

Of course, Oriskany was subjected to a thorough decontamination process before sinking to protect against future environmental problems.  But when cargo ship New Flame collided with a tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar, the first priority was to pump any remaining fuel off the vessel before salvage (fortunately the twin hulled tanker made it back to port).  Semi-submerged, the New Flame’s stern was scrapped after the ship broke in half, but the bow is reportedly embroiled in an ongoing salvage saga featured on National Geographic.

 
 


 
 
 

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