Here are the worst & most famous ship wreck disasters. These shipwrecked boats & ships have caused some of the worst historic tragedies in the history of sailing.
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5: The Sultana
April 27th, 1865: steamship Sultana explodes on the Mississippi River, killing roughly 1,800 people on board, including a group of recently paroled Union prisoner of war soldiers. This incident holds the distinction of the deadliest maritime disaster in U.S. history. However, since it happened at the tail-end of the Civil War & was overshadowed by the recent assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the event is often forgotten in the annals of American history. The Sultana was just two years old when she was making her fateful trek from St. Louis to New Orleans. Although she was meant to carry only 376 passengers, she was carrying over 2,000 people on this particular journey as the ship's captain, J. Cass Mason, was hoping to receive bribes for returning the prisoners of war back north. During the journey, however, one of the ship’s boilers sprang a leak. It therefore pulled into the harbor of Vicksburg, Mississippi in order to undergo repairs. Mason was told that in order to properly fix the boiler it would need to replaced; an undertaking which would last a few days. The captain knew that if that were the case, the soldiers would be sent home on different boats, costing him thousands of dollars in potential revenue. So instead, Captain Mason decided to have the boiler only partially repaired in order to finish the journey as soon as possible. Because it was already severely overloaded, the Sultana caught fire during the early morning hours of April 27th when the damaged boiler exploded. The explosion hurled many of the crew & passengers into the water, while parts of the deck collapsed & caught fire in the furnace below. Its passengers—many of whom were soldiers already weakened from their time in prison camps—tried escaping into the water, but soon found it hard to swim against the current. Thus, many of them died from either drowning or from hypothermia. Also included in the long list of deaths was Captain Mason himself.
4: The Doña Paz & Vector Collision
December 20th, 1987: one of the deadliest maritime disasters in history occurs when the passenger ferry Doña Paz collides with the oil tanker, Vector, near the Philippines's capital city of Manila. Of the estimated 4,386 people on board, only 26 survived. The Doña Paz was only supposed to hold 1,500 people. But for reasons that still remain unclear, it was carrying over 4,000 passengers & crew members on that particular voyage, many of whom were not registered passengers. Furthermore, the ship did not have nearly enough life jackets for everyone aboard, & the ones they did have were locked away. Reports also show that the Doña Paz did not have any radios to communicate with the coast guard or with nearby ships in the case of an emergency. Additionally, the Vector was also said to be unfit for the sea, as it had no license or experienced captain on board. It was carrying over 8,000 barrels of oil when it collided with the Doña Paz. Based on survivors' testimonies, the crash caused pandemonium on both vessels as neither were prepared to handle an emergency. Most of the Doña Paz's crew was said to be drinking beer in their recreation cabin while the captain was supposedly watching a movie in his own cabin. To make matters worse, the crash started a fire on board the Vector that quickly spread to the Doña Paz. Even the water near the ships ignited in flames as thousands of gallons of oil poured into the sea. As the Doña Paz's crew panicked, passengers tried escaping into the fiery waters, which were also known to be shark infested. It took 16 hours before a rescue mission could be organized & in the end, more than 4,000 people lost their lives.
3: The PS General Slocum
From 1891 until her ultimate demise in 1904, the PS General Slocum was known for her frequent mishaps. Within her first month of voyages, she ran aground & had to be rescued by tugboats. In 1894 alone she was grounded on three separate occasions. Then in 1901, she collided with another ship. But on June 15th, 1904, the PS General Slocum caught fire & sank in New York City’s East River, killing just over 1,000 people. The ordeal stands as the worst maritime disaster in New York City's history & was the city’s deadliest event up until the September 11th terrorist attacks of 2001. For most of her existence, the ship served as a passenger boat, taking people on excursions all around New York. Its last tour saw a fire start in the lamp room of the ship, which contained oily rags & straw that spread the flames around quickly. The ship’s captain, Van Schaick, became aware of the fire