NWDMAN-MADEThe Worst Shipwrecks in Human History

The Worst Shipwrecks in Human History

The destruction of ships and vessels often results in loss of life and terrible consequences for the environment. In this article, we have collected the most famous shipwrecks in human history.



This is a case when the ship’s captain has to make a difficult decision. The last voyage for Armenia was from Sevastopol to Tuapse in November 1941. Armenia left Sevastopol on the 6th of November. Onboard were wounded, civilians, and all medical personnel of the Black Sea Fleet. At night, the ship was already in Yalta. Unfortunately, the port of Yalta had no means of protection from German aviation, and German troops were already near the city. The captain had no choice and made the crossing in Tuapse in light time of day. This decision was fatal for Armenia.

At 8 a.m. on November 7, Armenia went to Tuapse, and in a few hours was attacked by the HE – 111. The torpedo inflicted serious damage on the bow of the ship and sent Armenia to the bottom in just 5 minutes. Together with the ship, from 4000 to 8000 thousand people went to the God of the sea. Only 8 lucky people were left alive.

The ship was built in Leningrad and used on the Odessa-Batumi line. But during the war in 1941, it was converted into a sanitary transport vessel. Soviet forces used German markings in the form of large red crosses, but this did not protect them from attack.

Doña Paz

dona paz

Doña Paz went on her last voyage from Taklobalan to Manila on December 20, 1987. This trip was the last for passengers who were in a hurry to the capital to celebrate the New Year. On the same day, at 10 p.m., a terrible collision with the tanker Vector took place. Thousand tons of oil spilled into the sea, and explosions caused a fire. The ships crashed in half from the collision, so the chance of rescue was minimal. Plus, there were a lot of sharks in the ocean, which made the situation even worse.

This tragedy demonstrates human greed, disorder, and irresponsibility. As always, the sea does not forgive mistakes. Since 1975, Doña Paz has been misused and has carried many more passengers than safety regulations allowed. The maximum number of passengers to be carried was 610. But usually, the ship was overcrowded and carried between 1000 and 4000 people, which was unacceptable.

According to one survivor, the lockers in which the life jackets were kept were locked, and no one gave the keys. Panic and chaos enveloped everyone, and the lifeboats were thrown into the water without any reason. All the people prayed for rescue, but there was nothing the crew could do.

There were 26 people saved. 24 passengers were from Doña Paz, the other two were sailors from a tanker. Independent experts estimate that the number of the dead is 4,200, while official statistics are 1,580. It is no wonder that so few people were saved, as the rescue operation did not start until 8 hours after the accident.

The death of the ferry is one of the cruelest and worst shipwrecks in peacetime. The ferry was built in Japan in 1963 and sold to the Filipinos in 1975.

MV Goya


Goya evacuated 20,000 refugees, wounded, and soldiers in the past four voyages, but could not cope with the final task. For the ship, it was the fifth voyage of evacuation from Red Army units. The morning of April 16, 1945, was a fatal day for all passengers on board. Goya was fully loaded with people on the last trip. Passengers were in all corners of the ship. The exact number could not be determined, as not all passengers had identity cards. The number ranged from 6,000 to 7,000. All these people were full of hope that the war was over for them. New life plans were the main topic of conversation for the saved people.

The disaster came after an unidentified silhouette was seen at 22:30. All passengers had to wear life jackets, but there wasn’t enough onboard. In Kronesfels, which accompanied Goya, there was a malfunction that caused the engine to fail. The ships had to go to the raid and do some repairs, they continued their journey an hour later.

A powerful torpedo attack made everyone shudder. The Soviet L-3 submarine began bombing at 23:45. Despite the protection measures taken, the shell hit Goya’s nose. This resulted in injuries to people and the ship, but the ship remained afloat, and the sailing was not canceled. The Norwegian vessel, which had been requisitioned by the Germans, was in a panic. Few managed to survive, according to some reports, only 177 people were saved. “A huge mass of water was pouring out of huge holes…The torpedoes bombed the ship in two parts, water was coming out of all the gaps with a very loud noise. I heard nothing but the impending death,” recalls the German tanker Jochen Hannema, one of the few survivors of the catastrophe. The huge ship sank in about 15 minutes.

Junyo Maru

Junyo Maru

These ships were a real hell for POWs. The Japanese called them Ships of Hell. They were used to transport workers and prisoners of war (essentially slaves) to areas that had been occupied by Japanese forces during World War II. No matter how the Japanese tried to hide their ships, British and American forces knew what they were designed for. The worst shipwreck occurred on September 18, 1944. The ship employed 4.1 thousand workers and 2.2 thousand prisoners of war of the Dutch, the British, the Australians, the Americans, and the Indonesians when the British submarine Traundwind struck the “Junyo Maru” in a raging attack. There were only two boats and a couple of rafts on board.

When the ship began to sink, the prisoners had no chance of escape, but for many, it was the best arrangement. The conditions in which they had to survive were unbearable. Many died and went mad long before the fatal blow. A small number of prisoners and part of the Japanese army were brought aboard by escorts from the Ship of Hell. Around 650 prisoners of war and 190 slaves survived. The surviving prisoners were sent to build a railway to Sumatra. Those who were sent dreamed of finding themselves in the place of the drowned, because there was even less chance of survival.

In total, during the war, nine Ships of Hell were sunk, and more than 20 thousand people died. Officially, these ships were never part of the Japanese fleet and were unmarked.

Wilhelm Gustloff

Wilhelm Gustloff

It is worth to note the size of the German transport of Wilhelm Gustloff. Its displacement exceeded 25 thousand tons. During the attack of Marines led by Alexander Marinesko, there were more than 10 thousand people on board of Gustloff. They were old people, children, women. They were refugees from East Prussia. Besides, there were crew members, servicemen, and German cadets on board.

Three torpedoes were pointed at Gustloff, which hit the target directly. However, the fourth torpedo almost resulted in a fatal outcome for the commander and his crew. It got stuck, and the crew of the C-13 miraculously managed to save themselves. More than 200 depth bombs were fired in response to this daring attack. According to some sources, the losses could have exceeded 8,500 people, and according to official data, 5,350 people died there. This is considered one of the worst shipwrecks in history.

The submarine spotted a warship on January 30, 1945, in Baltic waters, together with an escort.

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