A walk along the seashore always inspires me. I am fascinated by the debris that gets washed ashore, from ships and from the seabed, and this inspired me to create my piece called Flotsam.
A ship wrecking at sea is never a good thing, but they do give us an insight into history. They tell us stories from the past, shedding light on our ancestors and how they lived their lives.
It is estimated that over 3 million shipwrecks are lying across the ocean floors. Here are some of the cases that I thought were quite interesting.
The fleet of kublai Khan
The lost fleet of Kublai Khan is one of the most famous shipwrecks of old times. Two Mongolian invasion fleet that were attempting to attack Japan were wrecked in 1274 and 1281, killing thousands of troops. Several artefacts belonging to these vessels were found when archaeologists located the fleet in 2015.
The Spanish Armada
A fleet of 130 ships tried to invade England in 1588. Storms disrupted their efforts and many of the ships were wrecked off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland, with over 5,000 lives lost. In 1985, divers discovered the wreckage of three vessels.
Probably the most famous of all maritime disasters was Titanic. The largest cruise ship of its time, Titanic was built in Ireland. The ‘unsinkable’ ship sank after colliding against an iceberg on its maiden voyage to New York. Over 1,500 lives were lost. The wreck was finally located in 1985 by a joint French-American expedition, and artefacts were recovered from the sunken ship. Many of these are on show at the National Maritime Museum in England.
RMS Empress of Ireland
The Canadian liner sank near the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River in 1914, after it collided with the Norwegian SS Storstad in thick fog. Silver bars, a brass bell and other ship’s equipment have been recovered.
The cruise ferry, built in Germany, was en-route to Stockholm from the Estonian province of Tallinn when it sank in 1994, killing over 800 people. Many of the relatives petitioned to get the vessel raised but the Swedish Government decided to bury the vessel with thousands of tons of pebbles. The site has been designated a sea grave and therefore further exploration is prohibited.
The Andrea Doria
The ship rests in 240 feet of water in the North Atlantic and is a very popular site for divers.
The 100-gun ship of the Royal Navy was launched in 1737. Sinking the ship has been classed as one of the worst British naval disasters in history. Claiming the lives of more than 1,000 sailors, the disaster has been told and retold in both fiction and non-fiction literature. The wreck was discovered in 2008 about 40 nautical miles from where it encountered the storm near to the Channel Islands in 1744.
The Mary Rose
The Mary Rose was a warship in the navy of King Henry VIII. It was destroyed while leading an action against a French ship in the Solent in 1545. The ship sank in the English Channel. Salvaged in 1982, many artefacts have been recovered and are on display in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard museum. The finds from salvage operations has increased our knowledge of maritime warfare.
These disasters and shipwrecks are embedded in maritime history. They are tales of disaster but also bravery and heroism. As I walk along the shore, I find it fascinating to stop to watch the sea gently lapping over the sand, knowing that out there a vast history awaits discovery from the millions of wrecks yet to be found.