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Top 10 Most Famous Shipwrecks

Here are some of the most famous shipwrecks.

On Billion Dollar Wreck, father and son Martin and Grant Bayerle Martin seek to uncover hidden treasure on the ill-fated RMS Republica famous shipwreck off Nantucket, Massachusetts. 

And they're not the only ones. There's been a long fascination throughout history with shipwrecks and the treasure that they could hold, and the United Nations estimates that there are at least three million shipwrecks on the ocean floors. 

Here we take a look at 10 of history's most famous shipwrecks:

10. MS World Discoverer 

The MS World Discoverer was a Danish cruise ship created in 1974. While carrying passengers on a cruise in 2000 it struck a rock at the Solomon Islands, resulting in the ship subsiding. A distress signal was quickly dispatched and all crew and passengers were escorted safely to another passenger ferry.

There have been several attempts to salvage the shipwreck, but none have been successful, partly due to the fact that much of the ship has been looted and damaged during the Solomon Islands Civil War. The ship has remained at Roderick Bay ever since, and is now a popular local tourist attraction and it can even be viewed on Google Maps. 

9. The Black Swan

The Black Swan or The Black Swan Project, is believed to be the greatest recovery of gold treasure in history. The treasure was found on the remains of the Spanish warship Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes which sank off Portugal in 1804. In 2007 the American company Odyssey Marine Exploration announced that it had uncovered gold worth an estimated $500 million (£314 million).

However, the Spanish government declared that they rightfully owned the gold, and the case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, only for the gold to be returned to Spanish authorities in 2012, where it is now displayed in various exhibitions across the country. 

8. MV Dona Paz

The sinking of the MV Dona Paz is remembered in history as the deadliest of all peacetime maritime distasters. It was a Philippine registered ferry and while carrying over 4,000 passengers, collided with an oil tanker MT Vector on December 20, 1987. A fire and explosion ensued, killing a predicted 4,386 passengers and there were only 24 survivors.

A lack of proper safety and communication measures were blamed, and it reportedly took 8 hours for the Philippine maritime authorities to hear of the incident. Due to the fire much fo the ship was destroyed, and it is now remembered as "Asia's Titanic."

7. The Queen Anne's Revenge

Queen Anne's Revenge was an 18th century warship mostly known for being the ship of legendary pirate Blackbeard (Edward Teach). First serving in the British Navy, the ship was later captured by the French and then by pirates from 1717 onwards. Although Blackbeard used the ship for less than a year, he achieved some of his greatest prizes during this time. In 1718 he  grounded the ship and abandoned it, escaping capture by the British by boarding a smaller nearby ship.

In 1996 the remains of Queen Anne's Revenage were discovered, about one mile ashore from Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. So far thirty one canons have been discovered and more than a quarter of a million artifacts have been recovered. As one of the few pirate ships to be discovered, it is now listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. 

6. Vasa

Vasa is a Swedish warship, believed to have been built between 1626 and 1628. The ship sank twenty minutes into its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628 after being hit by strong winds and flooding. Sinking less than a mile into its journey, it was regarded as a great embarassment for the King of Sweden, and there were several salvage attempts, but none were successful.

It was not until 1961 that the shipwreck was successfully recovered, including thousands of artifacts. The hull of the ship was found to be remarkably in tact and with the help of some restoration, the ship is now a popular Swedish tourist attraction, with over 22 million visitors to date. 

5. The Mary Rose 

The Mary Rose was a Tudor warship commissioned and run during the reign of Henry VIII. Launched in 1511, it served in many battles against France, Brittany and Scotland, and in 1545 it sank during a battle against the French. Sinking in the Solent, close to the Isle of Wight, it was not rediscovered until 1971, and was salvaged in 1982. The remains of the shipwreck are now viewable in a museum in Portsmouth, and has become one of the most expensive and expansive projects in maritime archeology history.

In addition to the ship's structure itself, over 26,000 artefacts have been recovered - many of which are now on public display. The remains of about half of the deceased crew members have also been recovered, and bone analysis has revealed that many suffered from health conditions such as arthritis, rickets and scurvy. 

4. USS Arizona 

The USS Arizona was an American battleship built for the US Navy launched in 1915. The ship served many purposes, from escorting President Woodrow Wilson to the Paris Peace Conference to being sent to Turkey during the Greco-Turkish War, and was sent from California to Pearl Harbour, Hawaii in 1940 in response to the threat of Japanese Imperialism. On 7 December, 1941 USS Arizona was bombed by the Japanese, exploding and sinking. 1,177 crew members and officers were killed.

The shipwreck was declared a National Historic Landmark on 5 May 1989. Today the shipwreck remains and can be viewed at the USS Arizona Memorial, and is annually visited by two million people. 

3. RMS Lusitania 

RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner launched in 1906, and made a total of 202 trans-Atlantic crossings before it was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat on 7 May 1915. Of the 1,962 passengers and crew aboard, 1,191 lost their lives. Causing outrage and shock across the world, some believe it was a major factor in encouraging the US to enter World War II as an ally.

Today the shiprwreck is in a state of severe detoriation. As it had been operating for seven years prior to sinking, it is in much worse condition compared to The Titanic and much was destroyed upon the initial blast of the torpedo. It lies 11 miles south of the lighthouse at Kinsale, Ireland. There have been various salvage attempts of the Lusitania, with many of the remaining ship's items being recovered, some of which are privately owned while others are on displays in museums around the world. 

2. RMS Republic

The star of Billion Dollar Wreck, the RMS Republic was built in 1903 and operated as a steam-powered ocean liner. It wasn't until 23 January 1909 at 5:30 a.m. that distaster struck, colliding with the Lloyd Italiano liner SS Florida just off Nantucket, Massachusetts and sinking the next day at about 8.40 p.m. A total of six lives were lost, and the evacutaion process was praised as flawless at the time. Since the sinking, there have been many rumours and legends surrounding the treasure that supposedly went down with the ship. Ranging from $250,000 to $3,000,000 in estimates of the value of the sunken treasure - if excavated today it could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars - perhaps even a billion.

It is now son and father Grant and Martin Bayerle's mission on Billion Dollar Wreck to recover the rumoured treasure and claim it as their own. The shipwreck itself is 250 feet under water and much of it has deteriorated - however the vaults that contain the alleged treasure appear to be very much in tact. 

1. RMS Titanic 

Just about everyone knows about Titanic - and its fate. A lot of us will know it from James Cameron's 1997 mega-blockbuster Titanic, which included actual footage of the ship's eerie remains. The supposedly "unsinkable" ocean liner set sail on its maiden voyage on 10 April 1912 only to hit an iceberg just before midnight on 14 April and sank in less than three hours. Claiming 1,514 lives, it is often remembered as one of the most famous and tragic shipwrecks in history. It wasn't until 1985 that a Franco-American expedition was able to reach the shipwreck, and discovered that it had been split in half - with each half lying within about a third of a mile apart from one another.

The stern section was found to be almost completely crumbled, where as the bow is in much better condition, with some of the interiors incredibly intact. Hundreds of artifacts have been excavated from the shipwreck and can be viewed in various exhibitions around the world - from tableware to furniture and even menus.