At the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker is a silent eerie graveyard of ships and planes that have been taken over by the sea and are waiting to be explored by curious divers. Each one has its own fascinating story to tell and with wrecks scattered all over the world’s oceans, the mysteries of the deep will challenge and satisfy the adventurer inside every diver.
1. RMS Rhone (1865-1867): Salt Island, British Virgin Islands
The story of the Rhone is a tragic tale that involved a Category 5 hurricane, the routine decision to have about 120 passengers tied to their bunks and locked in their cabins to prevent injuries and a captain who was swept overboard by a huge wave, never to be seen again. The violent storm tossed the ship against the rocks, filling the full steam boiler room with seawater causing an explosion. The ship broke in half with the stern and its restrained passengers sinking very quickly. The stern now sits at a depth of 35 feet while the bow is resting at 80 feet and the entire ship is covered with multi-colored corals and sponges.
2. SS Yongala (1903-1911): the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Known as Australia’s “Titanic”, the Yongala was a steel steamer ship that sunk in a cyclone off the shore of Townsville near Cape Bowling Green, taking with it over 120 passengers, a prize bull and a race horse. At the depth of 328 feet the aft, engine room, steam room, toilets and even human bones can be seen at this artificial reef.
3. The German World War I High Seas Fleet (1913-1919)- SMS Köln, SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm, SMS Markgraf, SMS König: Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands
The Germans were ordered to surrender all U-Boats and surface warships to the Allies at the end of World War I. Over 74 warships were interned at Scapa Flow waiting for the end of peace negotiations. When the Treaty of Versailles was ready the German Admiral was concerned Great Britain would take the fleet for its own. When a window of opportunity opened the Admiral ordered his fleet to be scuttled and within an hour over 400,000 tons of steel was sent to the bottom of the sea. The Köln lies on its starboard side at 114 feet, while the Kronprinz Wilhelm, the Markgraf and the König all sit virtually upside down between the depths of 98 to 131 feet.
4. Umbria (1911-1940): Red Sea, near Ras Muhammad
Although Italy was not yet in World War II the 500 foot long Italian cargo ship, the Umbria, was loaded with Fiat cars, wine, lifeboats, over 300,000 bombs, 60 boxes of detonators and other war commodities totaling 8,600 tons. The Royal Navy feared that the cargo would end up in enemy hands, but could only delay the ship at Port Said for so long before it was allowed to proceed on its way. The British forced the Umbria to anchor once more as they searched it. The captain of the Umbria happened to be listening to his radio the morning that Italy joined the war and then proceeded to scuttle his ship so the British could not have it. The Umbria’s cargo is still in tact at a depth of 118 feet.
5. SS Thistlegorm (1940-1941): Gulf of Suez, Sharm-El-Sheikh
The British merchant navy ship, the Thistlegorm, was carrying a full load of wartime cargo such as Bedford trucks, rifles, motorbikes and tank ammunition when it came under attack. It was this tank ammunition that exploded during World War II German bombing subsequently ripping open its roof and exposing its entire contents for divers to investigate. The depth range is between 42 and 98 feet making it a very popular dive destination.
6. SS President Coolidge (1931-1942): Vanuatu
A must for any wreck diver is the accessible President Coolidge. It has its origins as a 654 foot long luxury liner, but it sunk as a World War II troop ship when it ran into an American minefield. It now rests on its port side with the bow at 49 feet and the stern at 82 feet. It would take several dives to see all this massive wreck has in the way of cannons, a 10-wheel GM truck and jeeps.
7. B17 Bomber “Black Jack” (1942-1943): Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea
Another casualty of wartime is the Boeing B17 military bomber aircraft known as Black Jack. It lies in Papua New Guinea’s clear waters at a depth of 175 feet. It went down during a bombing mission in Japan, but is still intact and quietly waiting for divers to check out its turret guns and cockpit.
8. Fujikawa Maru (1938-1944): Truk Lagoon, Micronesia
One of the best wrecks to see of the 60 ships and planes of the Japanese “ghost fleet” is the Fujikawa Maru. This 7,000-ton freighter’s hold was loaded with Zero fighter planes when it was torpedoed during World War II. The ship sits upright at a depth of 437 feet making it easy for divers to get to and explore.
9. USS Saratoga (1927-1946): Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands
The Saratoga was the second aircraft carrier of the United States Navy and the fifth ship to bear her name. With 8 decks and an 888-foot flight deck it was 6 ft longer than the Titanic. It had a grand history during World War II of being very prominent in the Pacific, with the part it played in Iwo Jima being the pinnacle of its career. Once retired from duty, the Saratoga was brought to Bikini Atoll to be used as a target during the A-bomb tests. It went down with ammunition, 4 planes, dive-bombers, a torpedo bomber, 500 pounds of bombs and an assortment of anti-aircraft guns. At a depth of 40 feet the bridge can be seen, the flight deck appears around 90 feet and the hanger around 130 feet with its deepest depth being 190 feet.
10. SS Andrea Doria (1951-1956): Nantucket, North Atlantic
The Andrea Doria’s existence was cut short when it collided with the Stockholm, a Swedish freighter, in thick fog. Although the Stockholm suffered a blow to its bow it was able to stay afloat. The Andrea Doria was not so lucky, filled with water and sank 11 hours after the collision. The 700-foot luxury liner has been considered “the Mt. Everest” of scuba diving with only the most experienced technical divers being able to maneuver around the continually collapsing hull at 240 feet below sea level. It is also known as a “noisy wreck” due to the sounds of hall deterioration and metal being moved around inside by the currents.
11. MS Zenobia (1979-1980): Larnaca, Cyprus
The story goes that the Zenobia, a Swedish roll-on-roll-off ferry fully loaded with 104 articulated trucks with trailers, sunk on its maiden voyage due to a faulty computerized ballasting system. A maintenance crew was called in to fix the list from port to starboard side to 5%, were then prematurely dismissed, and then 9 hours later the ship capsized and sank. She now rests on her port side at 141 feet, with her starboard side at 52 feet.
12. USS Oriskany (1944-2006): Florida
The “Mighty O” was a 911-foot long US Army Essex-class aircraft carrier that had its first deployment in the Mediterranean and then the Korean War. After that the ship and its crew starred in 2 Hollywood films, The Bridges at Toko Ri and Men of the Fighting Lady. The Vietnam War was the last war for the Oriskany. It was decommissioned and 30 years later was purposely sunk to create the world’s largest reef at a depth between 65 and 147 feet.
Take a dive through history at any one of these underwater cemeteries and experience the sense of loss as well as the thrill of discovery.