How Many Shipwrecks Are There?

The ocean is thought to be home to thousands if not millions of undiscovered shipwrecks.
The ocean is thought to be home to thousands if not millions of undiscovered shipwrecks.

On the night of April 14 to the morning of April 15, 1912, the North Atlantic Ocean witnesses what would become the most recognized ocean disaster of the 20th century; the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The Titanic sank as she made her first voyage from the English city of Southampton to the city New York City. More than1,500 people died in the incident. During World War II, SS General von Steuben and MV Wilhelm Gustloff were torpedoed by Russian submarines killing a total of 15,000 people. The ships are just but a few of the millions of shipwrecks that lie on the seabed.

Parts of the oceans are known to deadly navigational channels and hundreds of ships have sunk in these channels. The Graveyard of the Atlantic lies off the coast of North Carolina. It is estimated that 5,000 ships have sank at the spot. The Bermuda Triangle is another known death trap for ships and airplanes. The triangle lies between the southern coast of Florida, Puerto Rico, and the island of Bermuda. The triangle is known to be the resting place of more than 75 airplanes and thousands of ships. It is one of the few places in the world where the compass does not point towards the north.

How Many Shipwrecks Are There in the Ocean?

An estimate shows that more than three million shipwrecks lie on the ocean floor. The figure dates back to when humans began traversing the ocean and lakes. The oldest wrecks include 10,000-year-old canoes while the newest are 21st century shipwrecks. A small fraction of the ships are known, and an even smaller portion have been explored. The Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War grounded about 3,500 merchant vessels, 783 submarines, and 175 warships.

Most of the ships that sank before 18th and early 20th centuries were thought to contain precious cargo. The Spanish galleons were known to transport jewels and cargo across the oceans while the Uluburun shipwreck in the southern shore of Turkey contained gems, gold, silver, swords, and several other precious tools. It took over ten years and 22,414 dives to haul up the cargo in the ship.

Discovering the Ocean's Shipwrecks

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that it recognizes 4,300 shipwrecks in its National Marine Sanctuaries. The organization maps the wrecks to avoid a collision with other ships or submarines. It is estimated that treasures worth $60 billion lie at the bottom of the sea waiting to be discovered. However, diving operations are costly, exhausting, and time consuming. Some of the ships explored have come up empty handed while some that were expected to contains nothing have turned up with several tonnes of treasure. During the search of the Malaysian plane MH-370, several shipwrecks were discovered fueling the prospects that the seabed still holds a lot of mysteries. About 90-95% of the seafloor is yet to be explored and researchers are optimistic that thousands if not millions of shipwrecks are still undiscovered.


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