Rolling in the Deep: 6 Famous Shipwrecks You Can Actually Visit

famous shipwrecks
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for” — John A. Shedd (Salt from My Attic, 1928)

An indescribable feeling takes over when you see an old ship rusting away. No matter if it has washed ashore or has begun to sink beneath the waves, a shipwreck tells a tale of new and old, from the ship’s life at sea to the animals and plants that now call the fallen vessel home.

Whether you’re the explorer who chooses to catch a glimpse of history from afar or the diver ready to plunge into the depths and discover some of the world’s lost wonders, we’ve put together a diverse collection of famous shipwrecks you can visit.

Well — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — let’s dive in.

USS Arizona (Honolulu, Hawaii)

famous shipwrecks USS Arizona Memorial

Any World War II buffs out there? The sunken wreckage of the USS Arizona, now only accessible by boat, pays tribute to Pearl Harbor by sharing stories from the infamous attack that brought the U.S. into World War II. This intimate display at the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Honolulu is an exceptionally moving experience because almost half of the casualties of Pearl Harbor occurred on this single battleship on December 7, 1941. May it rust in peace.

HMS Erebus (Arctic Ocean)

HMS Erebus
Naval Today
In 1845, the HMS Erebus set out to explore and take scientific readings of the infamous Northwest Passage, never to return. Nearly 170 years later, the fallen ship was discovered on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean by Parks Canada in 2014. Thanks to travel company Adventure Canada, a Northwest Passage-themed cruise between Kugluktuk, Canada, and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, will let you get up close and personal with the Erebus. Passengers can view the wreckage through a remotely operated vehicle controlled by Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Team, who will interpret and inform viewers about the shipwreck findings.

La Famille Express (Turks and Caicos Islands)

La Famille Express — Turks and Caicos Islands
Matthew Straubmuller/Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/imatty35/with/10995250226/
Built back in 1952 in Poland, the La Famille Express served much of its life in the Soviet Navy as Fort Shevchenko. After being sold to an islander from Turks and Caicos in the mid-1990s, La Famille succumbed to the forces of Hurricane Ike in 2008 and has been anchored, rusting, and decaying in the Caribbean ever since. The ship is somewhat of a hidden attraction, so you will need to set up a tour or rent a jet ski or boat. Check out Turks and Caicos Islands’s official tourism website for more details.

Type A-class Midget Submarines (Kiska, Alaska)

Type A Midget Submarines
Roadtrippers https://roadtrippers.com/us/kiska-ak/points-of-interest/kiska-submarine-wrecks
In the Aleutian Islands off Alaska’s coast lies the island of Kiska and a graveyard of forgotten military past. Here, you can explore a 70-year-old battlefield featuring two abandoned Japanese submarines from World War II. The slow erosion process on the tundra has preserved these subs exceptionally well, so if you’re looking to catch a lesser-known part of World War II history, this is your opportunity.

Sweepstakes (Ontario, Canada)

Sweepstakes — Ontario, Canada

One of our favorite shipwrecks has to be the Sweepstakes. The 19th-century cargo ship is one of the most iconic wrecks of Fathom Five National Marine Park in Ontario as it is just 50 yards away from the harbor and barely submerged beneath the surface. It’s accessible to novice divers, as well as non-divers who can view the shipwreck via glass-bottomed boats. Fathom Five offers a few other diving expeditions too.

Peter Iredale (Warrenton, Oregon)

Peter Iredale

On to the Pacific Northwest, where the storied Peter Iredale rests. This ship is one of the most reachable wrecks you can visit. The 19th-century, four-masted steel behemoth ran aground off the Oregon coast in 1906 near the area now known as Fort Stevens State Park in Warrenton (about two hours from Portland). The Peter Iredale has deteriorated immensely, but the skeletal remains can be easily accessed during low tide. However, we recommend viewing from afar during high-tide hours. The northern Pacific Ocean is notorious for rogue waves, which will sweep you out to see before you can say, “Mayday.”

MS World Discoverer (Solomon Islands)

MS World Discoverer

The MS World Discoverer first hit the high seas in 1974. In April 2000, a burly, uncharted reef punctured a hole in the cruise ship, grounding it in Roderick Bay on Nggela Island, which is part of the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean. There are no official tours of this remote wreck, so if you are a true explorer and happen to be in the area, maybe a local can help you out — but you didn’t hear it from us.

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