10 Incredibly Preserved Shipwrecks Around the World
If there’s one thing that will get both diving enthusiasts’ and historians’ hearts aflutter, it’s a good shipwreck. There are hundreds—and then some!—around the world, and that's only counting those that have been discovered. Some can be visited today with the safety of a diving suit and professional diving classes. Others can’t be explored in person, but are visible from the comfort and dry distance of a sandy shore. And some require a bit of faith in the words of historians and other divers.
Trained diver or not, you’re going to want to know about these 10 shipwrecks. Some are paradises for adventurers seeking close encounters with local reef wildlife; a few were intentionally sent to a watery death to create artificial reefs for different marine species. If you’re into wartime supplies and artillery, there are even a few on this list that haven’t been touched since going under during World War II. And even if you’re just a fan of pretty underwater photos, you’re in the right place.
SS President Coolidge, Vanuatu
Few divers are allowed to access this site, so be sure to book well in advance with a registered guide who is allowed on the private property where this shipwreck is located. In 1983, the local government declared that no artifacts or salvage attempts can be made on this site, making it a goldmine for divers who want to take in a bit of sunken (and mostly untouched) history.
General Hoyt S. Vanderburg, Key West
This shipwreck was completely planned. Once a member of a “Ghost Fleet"—decommissioned military ships left to rust—the General Hoyt S. Vanderburg was intentionally sunk near Key West in an effort to nurture and encourage the growth of a coral reef.
Eduard Bohlen, Namibia Desert
Unlike most shipwrecks, the Eduard Bohlen is partially buried beneath sand, not water. Located in Namibia—less than a mile from the nearest water source, in fact—this ship is now part of the Namib Desert. After hitting a sand bank on a voyage in 1909, all passengers were able to escape unharmed, but the ship was left to watch the tide slowly recede.
“Russian Wreck, ” Zabagad Island
Some believe the mysterious “Russian Wreck,” found off the coast of Zabagad Island in the South Egyptian Red Sea in 1988, was a spy ship. Why? Communication masts, batteries, and directional tools were discovered on-board. Of course, many others believe it was just a humble fishing vessel.
Kittiwake Wreck, Grand Cayman
In its prime, the USS Kittiwake was a submarine rescue vessel. Today, it serves as the home of an artificial reef flourishing off the coast of Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach. You can dive out to this one, but there are rules: no touching anything, no gloves, and no fishing allowed—with one exception. You are allowed to cull the area's invasive lionfish.
Sea Tiger Wreck, Honolulu
Formerly a Chinese trading vessel, the Sea Tiger was seized in the early 90s for transporting nearly 100 illegal immigrants. Before the turn of the century, it was intentionally sent underwater, much to the diving community’s delight. With large populations of reef sharks, moray eels, white eagle rays, sea turtles, and more, it's hailed as one of the best places to view marine life.
The Sweepstakes, Ontario
The Sweepstakes sunk in 1885, after hitting a rock near Cove Island in Ontario. It was later relocated to the head of Big Tub Harbor in Fathom Five National Marine Park. You can still see the shipwreck right below the surface of the clear, blue waters—even the hull remains intact. Unfortunately, divers are no longer allowed to enter this site.
SS Yongala, Australia
This is Australia’s largest shipwreck, located off the shores of Cape Bowling Green. The SS Yongala sank in 1911 during a cyclone. No life rafts from the ship were found after the storm, despite a seven-day search. It took half a century before the wreck was discovered and identified in 1958.
The Umbria, Sudan
You’ll find long-forgotten wartime supplies on this wreck (aerial bombs, detonators, electric cable), and, in surprising contradiction, Fiat 1100 Lunga motorcars. Because of its highly dangerous cargo, this shipwreck remains incredibly untouched and rests easy at the bottom of Wingate Reef in Sudan.
SS Thistlegorm, Egypt
You’ll find this wreck near Ras Muhammad National Park in the Red Sea. On a voyage to Alexandria with ammunition, Bedford trucks, two complete steam locomotives, and railway wagons (just to name a few pieces of cargo), twin bombs dropped by German aircrafts struck the ship, sending it to its watery gravesite.