Top 5 Shipwrecks

5. HMAS Protector

This large, steam-driven gunboat began its service in 1884 with the South Australian government. The HMAS Protector’s full history starts with the Boxer Rebellions, where she served in the contingent forces of the international effort. She was officially commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in 1911 where she served for the remainder of her naval career, fighting in The First World War.

After the breakout of The Second World War, the Protector was requisitioned by the US Army. She suffered a collision with another vessel while being towed to New Guinea. She was abandoned shortly after. The hull was then towed to Heron Island, just off the coast, where it was sunk and used as a breakwater. You can still see the remains of the massive vessel today.

4. SS President Coolidge

Starting life as a luxury cruise liner the SS President Coolidge was commissioned by Dollar Lines. The Coolidge acted as a trans-pacific passenger and commercial transport. In 1941 with the outbreak of war seeming all the more likely, the US War Department started to use the luxury liner as an evacuation tool, helping evacuate citizens from Hong Kong and other similar duties.

After the outbreak of war, the Coolidge was converted fully to a troop carrier. One of its orders was to head to the harbour at Espiritu Santo, without knowledge of how to gain safe entry. As the ship made its way into the harbour it struck two mines. The captain ordered the ship to run aground; however a coral reef prevented the path to the shore. The Coolidge sunk, taking the captain along with it as he saved his crew. The wreck is considered one of the most accessible for a ship of its size and as such is still a popular and desirable diving spot today.

3. Sweepstakes

The Sweepstakes was a Canadian Schooner built in 1867. The story of its demise begins in 1885, where it was hauling coal just off Cove Island. It was damaged and subsequently towed to Big Tub Harbour to undergo repairs, but was too damaged to go on. So the Sweepstakes sank and today it remains as one of the most beautiful shipwrecks to see. It is remarkably close to the surface of the lake and the great boat is well preserved, making it a fantastic tourist attraction. Unfortunately entry to the schooner is no longer permitted, due to its aging hull.

2. The Vasa

The Vasa was a great Swedish warship. She was commissioned by King Gustavus Adolphus in 1627 to be a symbol of ambition and beacon of prosperity for Sweden. The ship is considered one of the most heavily armed ships in the world at the time. Released from the shipyard, the boat set out on its maiden voyage where it was helped along until Slussen. After that the Vasa was expected to go its own way, but it floundered in the water and promptly sunk after travelling less than a nautical mile. The remains that were considered valuable were promptly scavenged and the rest of the ship left in the water to be forgotten. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that the remains of the ship were rediscovered and the ship was recovered. The Vasa currently resides in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, where it’s still being preserved carefully.

1. The Mary Rose

The Mary Rose was a carrack-type ship in the King’s navy launched in 1511. The ship served in three big wars with the French and the Scottish, acting as a flagship in a number of skirmishes. The Mary Rose was retrofitted in 1535, a time of relative quiet, between the second and the third war. The ship was leading the charge against French fleet in Portsmouth Harbour, when it suddenly sank. The exact reasons this happened are unknown but popular theories include the ship gaining too much extra weight in the retrofit, or possibly the captain and crew made mistakes. In the end though the ship sank and initial salvage attempts were useless.

The wreck was rediscovered in 1971 and with a great deal of effort, finally recovered in 1982. The ship remains at the Mary Rose Museum, where it has been visited by over 500,000 people in the time it’s been there. It remains one of the greatest maritime archaeological projects of all time.

By Russell Kingsfield

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