[Posted on June 22nd, 2015 by Bill Stewart]
Watching your older sister go on a boat ride out on the lake with her boyfriend in a canoe just seems like a great opportunity to reenact the maritime disaster with the Titanic. The moment they are at the love scene with some romantic smooching, you slip into the water and imitate an iceberg to tip over the canoe. While the prank caused some great laughs as the boyfriend clutched to the side of the wood canoe shivering from the cold and your sister gave chase to beat the living crap out of you, real maritime disasters are no laughing matter. Also, not every disaster was caused with the help of large chunks of floating ice.
Throughout history, some of the worse maritime disasters have occurred on the ocean waters. Often, we perform hydrodynamic analysis of the ocean waves to determine if ships can withstand the wave load without becoming damaged. Yet other disasters are less predictable than the ocean waves. We have gathered together the 9 top maritime disasters (not including the Titanic) that have happened in history. Take note of these shipwrecks and give some careful consideration the next time you want to play pranks against a couple trying to enjoy a bit of romantic time to themselves on the water.
Fire is a devastating event to happen on board a ship even with all the water around. The Cospatrick was a sailing boat in 1874 as it made its way south of the Cape of Good Hope heading from England to New Zealand. A fire broke out on board as the 472 people rushed to the 4 lifeboats that were available. While 61 people survived the fire, only 5 people were rescued on the lifeboats after being adrift for 10 days. The people survived by resorting to cannibalism.
2: The Wilheim Gustloff
Not all ocean liners were used for recreational purposes, especially during wars. Back in 1945, The Wilheim Gustloff was built to be a cruise ship. Yet with World War II in full swing, it was converted into a hospital and later a U-boat training school for the Germans. Just like the Germans lost the war, they also lost the ship along with 9,000 people who perished on board as it was scuttled by 3 torpedoes from a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea. Out of the 10,000 people on board the ship, only 1,000 survived.
3: Le Joola
There’s a reason why there is a maximum weight capacity on things like chairs, elevators and ships. The Le Joola only had a capacity of 536 people when 1,863 boarded the ship in 2002. The Senegalese ferry capsized when hitting rough waters as only 64 people survived. The sinking of this ship was considered the second-worst maritime disaster in history that involved a non-military vessel.
4: The Arctic
Boat collisions seemed to happen more frequently in the past. The Arctic was no exception. This ship was making a transatlantic voyage from Liverpool to New York in 1854 as it carried 400 passengers. It collided with a French steamship, took on water and sank. Out of the 400 people on board, only 87 people survived. None of the survivors were women or children who were on board even though the captain ordered that they should be evacuated to the lifeboats first.
Even cable dynamics and other marine analysis might not have saved the SS Eastland from disaster. This boat tipped over while docked because it was too top heavy. Shortly after the Titanic disaster, a new law was passed for all sailing ships to be equipped with the appropriate number of lifeboats. Major design flaws had already determined that the boat listed when too many passengers were on one side of the boat. With the added addition of the lifeboats, it was a disaster waiting to happen.
In 1915, the boat rolled over when the passengers gathered on one side to watch sail boat races along the Chicago river. Out of the 2,752 passengers, about 844 people died.
6: Dona Paz
Colliding with oil tankers carrying 8,000 barrels of petroleum is simply going to ruin your day. This accident happened with the Dona Paz in 1987. The Philippine passenger ferry was overloaded with people when it hit the oil tanker. The oil tanker’s petroleum products caught fire as the fire moved to the ferry. Both ships sank as 4,000 people on board the Dona Paz were killed. The Dona Paz is considered the worst maritime disaster in history that involved a non-military vessel.
7: Toya Maru
Nobody can predict the weather, or the sheer power of the ocean waves. The Toya Maru was a Japanese train ferry transporting passengers through the Tsugaru Strait in 1954. The waves and wind picked up, becoming a full typhoon as the ship tried to ride out the storm by setting down anchor. Yet it wasn’t enough. The anchor couldn’t hold as the captain decided to beach the ship. The waves and the storm tore the ship apart as it capsized and sank, killing 1,159 people out of the 1,309 people on board.
8: Mont Blanc
Explosives, fire and water are a deadly combination. This ship met its demise during World War I, but wasn’t attacked by any submarine or war boat. In 1917, this French ship collided with another called the Imo. When a fire broke out, the Mont Blanc ran aground on the Halifax waterfront. You probably see where this is going as the fire ignited the explosives.
The resulting blast was so fierce it toppled buildings and destroyed city blocks with the resulting fire. The massive explosion even triggered a tsunami. The blast was the largest man-made explosion in history before the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
9: General Slocum
Passenger steamboats were a common mode of transportation back in 1891, as some boats were used to transport people to events such as church picnics. The General Slocum was one such steamboat, as it made the journey along the East River in New York City when it suddenly caught fire. There were only 321 survivors out of the 1,021 people on board. Rotted life preservers, rotted fire hoses and inaccessible life boats were several reasons why the fire became unmanageable and people lost their lives while trying to escape.