Top 10 Intriguing Shipwreck Mysteries That Were Recently Solved


The ocean floor is littered with shipwrecks, many of which hide a secret. But as wonderful as the mysteries are, not knowing the answer is like a lingering itch that can’t be scratched. Fortunately, in recent years, several ships have come out of their silence and revealed some remarkable stories. Of a strange blip near the RMS Titanic to massive warships vanishing into thin air, here are the major maritime mysteries that can now be explained.

Related: 10 Fascinating Discoveries and Stories Involving Old Ships

ten A missing royal ship

In 1682, HMS Gloucester almost killed a king. James Stuart, the future King of England, was on board the ship when it was wrecked on a sandbar off the coast of England. On that fateful day, James barely survived, but not hundreds of crew and passengers. Despite the tragedy and the almost changed royal history, the location of the ship remained unknown.

Then two brothers, Lincoln and Julian Barnwell, along with their friend James Little, decided to look for the Gloucester. After four years of searching, they began to believe they would never find the wreckage. But in 2012, divers found a cannon off Norfolk. This led to a sinking and eventually the ship’s bell identified the vessel as the long-missing HMS. Gloucester.

Remarkably, when the trio decided at random to find the missing royal ship, they had no idea of ​​the historical significance of their discovery. Given its seniority and its role in royal politics, historians now consider the discovery of the Gloucester as one of the most important maritime discoveries of recent years.[1]

9 The real age of an old ship

In the 1980s, a fisherman was working in the Java Sea when he discovered a wreck off the coast of Indonesia. The ship was old, that was clear. But no one could date the ship. The only thing the researchers knew was that it had come from China and was carrying a cargo of ceramics, ivory and incense.

In 2018, archaeologists excavated the cargo again and found something they had missed before. One of the ceramic pieces had Chinese writing on the bottom, and it was almost like a label similar to modern “Made in China” stamps. In this case, he revealed the place where it was produced: Jianning Fu in the Chinese province of Fujian.

Historical records have shown that Jianning Fu became Jianning Lu around 1278. This suggests the ship sank before this name change, possibly as early as 1162. This, along with carbon dating tests of the ivory and d Other objects showed that the ship was probably 800 years old. years, a century older than previously thought. [2]

8 The Sullivan Brothers Grave

During World War II, the United States Navy prohibited relatives from serving on the same ship. The purpose of this rule was to prevent families from losing several members in the event of a disaster. But five brothers had other ideas. The Sullivan siblings adamantly refused to serve in the war unless assigned to the same ship. For some reason, the Navy relented and allowed the five brothers to board the battleship USS Juneau.

On November 13, 1942, the USS juneau was fighting in the Battle of Guadalcanal when she was hit by a Japanese torpedo. The ship sank, killing everyone on board, including Francis, George, Joseph, Albert, and Madison Sullivan.

For 76 years, the location of the ship remained a mystery. But in 2018, sonar pings alerted a search party to an anomaly that turned out to be the long-lost warship. It was found near the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The wreck lies at a depth of 3,700 feet (4,200 meters) below the surface and can only be described as a crumbling ruin covered in marine life.[3]

seven The blip of the Titanic

Paul Henry Nargeolet was a diver who frequented the wreck of the Titanic. By the time he had 30 dives under his belt, he had discovered something strange. One day in 1998, a mysterious blip appeared on her sonar screen, which sparked a mystery that would last for decades. Nobody knew what it was, only that the blip was big and close to the Titanic.

In 2022, Nargeolet and other researchers launched an expedition to the sinking and managed to solve the riddle. The blip was not another wreck or an underwater mountain. It was an open sea reef. Tentatively called the Nargeolet-Fanning Ridge, the volcanic formation lay 9,514 feet (2,900 meters) below the surface and teemed with marine life like fish, coral, lobsters and sponges.[4]

6 Shackleton’s Legendary Ship

In maritime history, Ernest Shackleton was a legend. He entered the history books when his ship, the Endurance, sank off Antarctica in 1915. Shackleton and his crew made an incredible escape, not only from the ship, but surviving for more than a year on drifting ice floes. Everyone was eventually rescued, but the Endurance was never seen again.

In 2022, explorers set out to find the infamous wreck. They discovered the Endurance in the Weddell Sea, an area also tellingly called the “worst sea in the world”, a name it has earned for being so dangerous and difficult to navigate. The wreckage lay 4 miles (6 kilometers) from where it had originally been crushed by pack ice. Despite all the crushing, the team discovered that the Endurance was largely intact and remarkably preserved.[5]

5 The goal of a mysterious cog

In 2012, efforts were made to widen the Ijssel river in the Netherlands. While working, wreckage was discovered at the bottom of the river. It was not alone. The cog, a type of medieval wooden boat, was in company with a punt and a barge of the same era.

But why was this fleet resting in this particular place? It turns out that the 2012 project was not the first attempt to engineer the Ijssel River. Researchers now believe the ships were deliberately sunk 600 years ago to alter the flow of water.

The decision was made to take the cog out of the water and preserve the boat. This was no small feat, given that the ship weighed 55 tons (50 tons). Maritime archaeologists spent three years planning the recovery, and when the time came, they managed to raise the entire cog on the first attempt.[6]

4 The True Story of the Butter Boat

For decades, locals living near Streedagh Beach in Ireland have visited the remains of a shipwreck. Lodged in the sand, no one knew where it came from or what name it sailed under, and it eventually became known as the “Butter Boat”. In 2020, researchers decided to solve the mystery. What they pieced together was a remarkably detailed and tragic account.

After testing the ship and digging through historical records, they discovered that the ship’s real name was the doggy style. It was a merchant ship that frequented the coast between Ireland and Great Britain. In 1770 the ship sailed from the port of Whitby in Yorkshire and ran into a storm at Broadhaven Bay.

The crew managed to abandon ship, but after a count realized that a cabin boy was still stuck on the ship, which was anchored near cliffs. The crew and local volunteers returned to doggy stylebut the storm swept the ship and many rescuers out to sea, killing 20 people in the process.[7]

3 The shipping container that was not

In 2019, a storm rocked the MSC ship Zoe. As a result, several steel containers fell overboard. Some time later metal scavengers decided to salvage the containers and sell them as scrap metal. Armed with a mechanical arm for grabbing large objects and on-board sonar, the crew arrived in the North Sea, where the accident had occurred. While scanning the seabed near a Dutch island called Terschelling, they found a sonar anomaly.

Not sure what it was but hoping for a shipping container, the salvagers used the mechanical arm to grab the object. What resurfaced was not a payday, but a piece of history. They had brought back timber from a 500-year-old ship and five tons (4,700 kilograms) of its copper cargo.

The cargo was intended to be used for some of the earliest copper coins of the Netherlands, while the ship itself was a rare example of two methods of shipbuilding. Dutch shipbuilders moved from a medieval method called ‘clinker’ to the more advanced technique of ‘carvel’, both of which were present in the wreck built during this crucial change.[8]

2 Missing warships

When a warship sinks and lives are lost, the wreckage is considered a war grave and military property. Needless to say, many ships sank during World War II, many of them taking entire crews with them to the bottom of the ocean.

In 2016, Navy researchers were visiting several sites when sonar revealed a disturbing pattern. Various submarines and warships had disappeared without a trace. Given the massive size of these sunken ships, it was all confusing – at first. A sudden influx of ship-related materials into the scrapyards soon revealed an answer. Turns out the metal pirates are targeting warships. It is not difficult to understand why. A single bronze boat propeller is worth around $5,000, and a complete wreck contains enough metal to net you a million dollars.

American warships are not the only victims of this trade. Metal pirates also plunder Australian, Dutch, British and Japanese warships, sometimes at significant personal risk to their own safety. [9]

1 How horses became a legend

Not all shipwreck mysteries are underwater. Some roam the earth as living, breathing creatures. In this case, it’s a herd of wild horses. For centuries, animals have existed on Assateague Island, off the coast of Virginia and Maryland. But how did they get there? No one really knew, only that an old folktale claimed that long ago the first horses were abandoned on the island after surviving a doomed Spanish galleon.

The evidence for this legend appeared by accident. During a recent study, a researcher tested the DNA of what he thought was a cow’s tooth. The latter had been found in a centuries-old abandoned Spanish colony in the Caribbean. However, analysis soon showed that the tooth belonged to a 16th century horse.

Curious to know the origins of the animal, the DNA was compared to modern horses. From the start, it was expected that the horse’s closest living relatives were from the Iberian Peninsula, where the Spaniards got their horses from. However, the tooth’s DNA was more closely tied to the mysterious Assateague Herd. This proved that the Assateague horses could only have come from the Spanish colonies and that their ancestors were indeed the steeds of explorers who were shipwrecked near the island.[10]

Jana Louise Smit

Jana earns her living as a freelance writer and author. She wrote a book on a challenge and hundreds of articles. Jana likes to hunt down the bizarre facts of science, nature and the human spirit.

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