There have been so many accidents on the open seas it is hard to count them all. The loss of life has been astounding and the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages is incalculable. Here are just a few of the worst disasters in maritime history.
MV Wilhelm Gustloff
While sailing in the Baltic Sea, in 1945, this German ship was struck by 3 torpedos, as it evacuated Nazi officials, civilians, and members of the military, being surrounded by the Russian Army. This accident recorded the largest loss of life in recorded history. Sinking in 45 minutes, the loss of life has been estimated at 9,400.
MV Dona Paz
On December 20, 1987, this Philipines passenger ferry collided with the MT Vector during the night. The collision with the Vector, which carried 8,800 gallons of gasoline, started a fire which spread to the Dona Paz and also set afire the seas. It is said that the life jackets on board the Dona Paz were locked up which forced passengers and crew to jump into the fiery sea, where there were also sharks. The estimated loss of life was 4,375, and it was considered the worst ferry tragedy during peace time in recorded history.
On May 17, 1915, this British ship, which travelled between New York City and Liverpool, England, was hit by a German torpedo and sank in only 18 minutes. Of the 1,959 people on board, 761 of the passengers and crew survived. This disaster provoked many countries to turn against Germany and actually speeded up the US’s entrance into World War I.
During World War II, on June 17, 1940, this ocean liner, which had been enlisted by the British government, was sunk losing more than 4,000 people. This is thought, by the history books, to be the greatest loss of life of any single British ship, and the most bloody encounter for English troops during World War II. More lives were lost here than in the combined loss of life of the Titanic and the Lusitania.
On April 16, 1945, during World War II, the Goya, a German transport ship which carried over 6,100 passengers – when you include the hundreds of undocumented passengers – was hit by a Soviet submarine torpedo in the Baltic Sea and sank in only 7 minutes. Only 183 people survived, among them 2 children. This tragedy, based on the number of lives lost, is thought to be the second worst maritime disaster in history.
There are more losses to be counted, but these are some of the worst ever. The sadness of all this loss is unquestioned. It can only be hoped that we do all in our power to prevent such disasters from ever happening again.