Two Mysterious Shipwrecks That Weren’t

Any case of a ship or plane going missing under mysterious circumstances will attract attention. A mysterious shipwreck will attract all sorts of stories, ranging from the mundane to the supernatural. The reality of those stories is usually a lot less exciting. Here are some exciting mysterious shipwrecks that turned out to be not that mysterious after all.

The wreck of the Mary Celeste is well known to most people. The basic circumstances most people know – that the ship was found abandoned despite being seaworthy, and the lifeboat was gone – are true. Apparently, that all by itself can’t be enough of a mysterious shipwreck, so invented details abound. To complicate matters, the famous Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a story about a similar ship that convinced so many people that even a U.S. consulate in Gibraltar asked if it was true. The Bermuda Triangle is commonly invoked to explain it, but the ship was near Haiti when abandoned, and thus in a completely different part of the Atlantic. Although the ship was abandoned, it was not abandoned in a haphazard way, and in fact, the condition of the ship indicated there was a planned and orderly evacuation. So what did happen? The most plausible theories surmise a waterspout in the area awas sighted and the crew quickly escaped or a “seaquake” led to fears of explosion.

When people hear that one of the more unusual shipwrecks in history occured in 1956, it may make them pause. It’s certainly not a time that most people would think of ocean liners being used. And while it is safe to say their use was declining, the Andrea Doria had been built five years before. The company was seeking to rebuild their fleet after World War II had destroyed most of it, and they touted the ship as being one of the safest. While it did have sufficent lifeboats and a double hull with 11 watertight compartments, it also had a tendency to list to one side when it encountered force. This became a problem when it was struck by another ship off the coast of Nantucket. Forty-six passengers were killed in the collision, but the others were evacuated to safety. The ship sank 11 hours after the impact, and is a popular site for divers. A situation like this would seem straightforward to most, but that didn’t stop people from speculating. Theories from it being deliberately sunk for business reasons to an intentional collision abound to this day.

There’s not much mysterious about most mysterious shipwrecks except the possible recovery of objects from them and how well the ship might be preserved. But that’s not nearly as fun as myth.

[Photo via Wikipedia/the Eric Sauder [T.H.S.] Collection]