Top 10 Worst Ship Disasters

Forgotten tragedies: here you have a list of 10 ship disasters that people know little about. Don’t worry! The Titanic is not among them!

10. SS Eastland


Where? –> Chicago

Date: July 24, 1915

844 dead

2,572 passengers

The Eastland didn’t sink, it settled on its side.

The ship was only a few feet from the wharf and in only 20 feet of water.

Indirectly the ship sunk because of the Titanic – they added 3 lifeboats and 6 rafts (14 to 15 tons to a boat that had already shown stability problems due to new regulations).

Surprisingly – or not, the next time it was loaded to its full capacity, the Eastland rolled to her side throwing people into the water and trapping many others underneath.

Source Photo

9. Ms Estonia


Where? -> from Tallinn to Stockholm

Date: September 28, 1994

852 dead

989 people on-board

There were various theories about what might have caused the sinking:

  1. The terrible weather from that night and a huge wave might have caused the sinking, after the prow’s doorways were thrown open by the water.
  2. The members of the staff were neglecting their duties and forgot to shut the doorways at the prow of the ship which led to the sinking.
  3. Some rumors state that the ship was used to ferry naval armaments. The cause of the sinking was also placed on the accidental blow-up of the explosives stored within the ferry’s confines.

Source Photo

8. RMS Empress of Ireland


Where? -> from Quebec to Liverpool, sank near the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River

Date: 28 May, 1914

1,012 dead

1,477 passengers on-board

It sunk after a a collision in thick fog with the Norwegian collier SS Storstad.

Although the ship carried more than enough lifeboats for all onboard – also because of the Titanic disaster – she foundered in only 14 minutes leaving no time to the passengers to use them.

Source Photo

7. RMS Lusitania


Where? -> from Liverpool to New York City

Date: 7 May, 1915

1,198  dead

It was carrying 1,962 people

Lusitania was crossed in front by a torpedo.

Due to the liner’s great speed, some believe the intersection of the German U-boat and the liner to be a coincidence, as U-20 could hardly have caught the fast vessel otherwise.

The crew scrambled to launch the lifeboats but the conditions of the sinking made their usage extremely difficult, due to the ship’s severe list.

Only 6 out of 48 lifeboats were launched successfully, with several more overturning and breaking apart.

Source Photo

6. Sultana, America’s Greatest Maritime Disaster


Where? -> from St. Louis to New Orleans

Date: April 27, 1865

1,700 dead

Capacity: 376 and 86 crew members

It was carrying 2300 recently released prisoners of war.

Official causes of the disaster:

  • mismanagement of water levels in the boiler, exacerbated by the fact that the vessel was severely overcrowded and top heavy.
  • overcrowded due to the bribery of army officers and the extreme desire of the former prisoners of war to get home
  • combined effects of careening, low water level, and a faulty repair to a leaky boiler made a few days earlier.

Source Photo

5. Le Joola – Worse Than The Titanic


Where: -> Dakar to Casamance

Date: 26 September, 2002

1,863 dead

The boat was carrying more than 2000 people even though the maximum capacity was of 580 passengers and crew

The accident could have been caused by a variety of factors:

  • Possible negligence
  • Rough seas and wind considering the fact that the ferry was built only to be sailed in coastal waters but was sailing beyond this coastal limit when it capsized.
  • Overcrowding – due to the heat and claustrophobic conditions below deck, as many passengers as possible usually slept on the upper level, making the ship more unstable.

Source Photo

4. Halifax Harbor Disaster – Two Ships And A City Destroyed


Where: Canada, Nova Scotia

Date: 6 Deceber, 1917

2000 dead, 9000 injured

The Norwegian vessel SS Imo collided with SS Mont-Blanc.

It was not a fatal blow, but it was the character of the cargo that made it what it was.

The Mont Blanc was crammed with munitions, bound for the war raging in Europe. It carried 2,500-tons of TNT, picric acid and barrels of high-octane benzole.

The resulting blast was the biggest man-made explosion of the pre-atomic age.

It devastated the busy port city, leveling more than a square mile of the waterfront, killing more than 2,000 people and injuring 5,000 more.

Source Photo

3. RMS Lancastria, Britain’s Greatest Maritime Disaster


Where: -> from Liverpool to Loire

Date: 17 June, 1940

Approximately 4,000 dead

Capacity: 1785, was carrying more than 9000.

From the total of 4,000 only 1,738 have been identified (named) dead,

There were aproximately 2,477 survivors.

The ship was sunk by air attack.

Source  Photo

2. MV Dona Paz, Deadliest Peacetime Maritime Disaster In History

dona pa

Where? -> Japan

20 December, 1987

4,386 dead

Caught fire and sank after a collision with the MT Vector.

4,357 dead and only  24 survivors + 11 dead from the MT Vector crew

Passengers were sleeping along corridors and on the boat decks.

Of the 21 bodies that had been recovered and identified as passengers on the ship only 1 of the fatalities was listed on the official manifest.

Of the 24 passengers who survived, only 5 were listed on the manifest.

Source Photo

1.MV Wilhelm Gustloff, The Biggest Maritime Disaster In History


Where? -> Germany

Date: 30 January, 1945

9,600 people died out of more than 10,600 on-board, 5,000 were children

10,582 people were packed onto a cruise ship that was meant to accommodate only about 1,900.

Some of the people from the ship were Nazis themselves, others had been the victims of Nazi aggression.

Three torpedoes hit the ship.

There weren’t nearly enough lifeboats, and many of the those that did exist were frozen to the deck.

The majority of the passengers drowned.

Source Photo


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