23 Historical and Fictional Shipwrecks | Scuba Diving

Geek Out Over these 23 Wreck-Themed Movies, Books, Historical Events and Plays

Our May issue featured photos and articles on shipwrecks all over the world, including a logbook that ran through the magazine of famous wrecks — both factual and fictional. The full timeline of noteworthy shipwrecks from The Odyssey to the RMS Titanic to the Life of Pi is compiled here for your viewing pleasure.

homer odyssey shipwreck greek mythology

The Odyssey
675-725 BCE: Set 10 years after the Trojan War, Homer’s epic poem follows the hero Odysseus’ during his 10-year maritime journey back to his wife, and the struggles he faces along the way.


shakespeare twelfth night shipwreck play

Twelfth Night
1601: Shakespeare shows his comedic side as a shipwreck leads Viola, a young, aristocratic-born woman, to wash up on the Illyrian shore and disguise herself as a man, which later creates a complicated love triangle.


vasa shipwreck museum sweden

The Vasa
1628: The large Swedish warship sank on its maiden voyage not far from Stockholm. In 1961, the vessel was raised and moved to a museum at the Stockholm's Vasa Museum in Sweden where it’s become the world’s most-visited shipwreck with 29 million visitors. Twenty minutes into its journey, the Vasa was hit by two strong winds causing it to heel to its port side, which led water to gush in and ultimate made the ship sink less than a mile from Stockholm.


gulliver's travels books shipwreck

Gulliver’s Travels
1726: In this adventure series, Jonathon Swift details the journey of maritime mishaps that leads traveler Lemuel Gulliver, the protagonist, to end up on a variety of unknown islands inhabited by people and animals of unusual sizes, behaviors and philosophies.


edgar allen poe bottle book

MS. Found in a Bottle
1833: Edgar Allan Poe uses this short story to recount an unnamed narrator’s voyage, but the tale soon goes dark when the ship capsizes from rough weather. The story originally appeared in the Baltimore newspaper, the Saturday Visiter, for which Poe won a literary contest.


flying dutchman ghost ship wreck

The Flying Dutchman
1843: Richard Wagner embraces horror in his 19th century Gothic opera that’s riddled with symbolism. Legend has it the story began with a Dutch sea captain swearing to make it around the Cape of Good Hope during a storm, but a deal with the Devil curses him to the voyage for eternity, which would explain the several supposed sightings since then of the ghostly ship.


Schooner Sweepstakes
1885: The Sweepstakes’ sinking has become a lucky dive spot for divers who visit Fathom Five National Marine Park in Tobermory, Ontario. It was damaged off Cove Island then towed to Big Tub Harbor where it now lies 20 feet underwater.

S.S. Yongala
1911: This vessel embarked on its 99th voyage in Australian waters only to meet its fate at the mercy of a cyclone. None of the 122 passengers were found, with the exception of Moonshine, a racehorse aboard.

titanic shipwreck arctic ocean

RMS Titanic
1912: Five days after its departure, the Titanic sank into the icy North Atlantic Ocean about 400 miles south of Newfoundland, Canada. The ship carried 2,200 people, and the ill-fated collision with an iceberg led to 1,503 deaths.


RMS Lusitania
1915: During WWI, a German submarine U-20 fired a torpedo into this ship off the coast of Ireland in the Celtic Sea. Most of the nearly 1,200 passengers died in the sinking.

The Bismarck
1941: As one of Germany’s most famous battleships in World War II, the Bismarck’s sinking symbolized (for many) the end of a time where battleships ruled the naval warfare force.

uss Arizona memorial hawaii shipwreck world war II pearl harbor

USS Arizona
1941: The tragic attack on Pearl Harbor — which launched the U.S.’s involvement in World War II — caused this Pennsylvania battleship to sink and claimed more than 1,000 deaths. The USS Arizona Memorial, located at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, is now America’s most-visited shipwreck, though it cannot be dived.


wilhelm gustloff german ship

Wilhelm Gustloff
1945: With more than 10,000 German refugees and naval personnel on board, the Wilhelm Gustloff suffered three blows from a Soviet sub. The tragic sinking resulted in a staggering 9,000 deaths, half of which were children.


titanic shipwreck arctic ocean

Fare Thee Well, Titanic
1948: It’s not Céline Dion’s tear-jerking ballad of “My Heart Will Go On,” but Huddie Ledbetter’s folk song tells of the adversity African Americans faced due in part to supposedly not being allowed on the RMS Titanic.


MV Captayannis
1974: Residing in Scotland’s River Clyde, this vessel (known as the “Sugar Boat” because of its cargo) sank when an oil tanker’s anchor chains ripped out its bottom. The sweet ending: British tugboats successfully rescued the ship’s crew.

MV Dona Paz
1987: Claiming the lives of 4,386 people, this wreck goes down as the deadliest maritime disaster during peacetime. “Asia’s Titanic” was struck by an oil tanker before catching fire. It now lies 5,866 feet under the Tablas Strait.

titanic jack rose movie shipwreck

1997: We’ll never let go of Jack’s love for Rose in Titanic — the third highest-grossing film of all time domestically. James Cameron's heartbreaking love story gives audiences a look into the real-life sinking of the British ocean liner.


Poseidon shipwreck movie

The Poseidon Adventure
1972: The disaster film, which was remade in 2006, shows the struggles passengers face to survive when the S.S. Poseidon, a fictional trans-Atlantic liner, is engulfed by a tidal wave.


life of pi book shipwreck Yann Martel

Life of Pi
An orangutan, a hyena, a zebra and a tiger get tossed onto a rescue boat with a young boy … this isn’t the start of a bad joke, it’s Yann Martel’s plot in his book about Pi Patel’s challenging survival after a shipwreck.


MV Le Joola
2002: This Senegalese ferry capsized off the coast of Gambia and became the second worst non-military maritime disaster with only about 60 survivors out of the nearly 2,000 patrons aboard.

ghost abyss movie james cameron titanic shipwreck

Ghost of the Abyss
2003: James Cameron goes down in history for making movies with sinking ships as he returns to the silver screen to take viewers on an underwater journey to see the resting place of the RMS Titanic in the cold Arctic Ocean.


wilhelm gustloff german ship

Die Gustloff
2008: Joseph Vilsmaier’s two-part TV movie depicts the events of the sinking of Wilhelm Gustloff, a German passenger ship that suffered from a Soviet submarine attack at the end of World War II.

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life of pi bengal tiger movie shipwreck

Life of Pi: The Movie
2012: Director Ang Lee brings Yann Martel’s story of Pi Patel to life by showing how a boy and a Bengal tiger discover the importance of the will to live, the nature of religious beliefs and territorial dominance.


Inspired to dive shipwrecks now? Check out ones in the Florida Panhandle, the Florida Keys, an ancient Greek wreck, or even one in the Solomon Islands.

Just make sure to be safe while exploring by following these shipwreck diving tips.