List of maritime disasters

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The list of maritime disasters is a link page for maritime disasters by century.

For a unified list by death toll, see List of accidents and disasters by death toll § Maritime.

Pre-18th century[edit]

Peacetime disasters[edit]

All ships are vulnerable to problems from weather conditions, faulty design or human error. Some of the disasters below occurred during periods of conflict, although their losses were unrelated to any military action. The table listings are in decreasing order of the magnitude of casualties.

Year Country Description Deaths Image
1495  Denmark Gribshunden – Flagship of John, King of Denmark caught fire and burned down while in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Ronneby in southeastern Sweden, becoming one of the best-preserved shipwrecks from the late medieval period. Exact number of deaths unknown, reported only as many of the crew of 150. many of the crew of 150
1694 England HMS Sussex – the third-rate was lost in a fierce storm on 1 March off Gibraltar. There were two survivors from a crew of 500. 498
1120  England White Ship – Ship carrying William Adelin, heir to the English Throne and the Duchy of Normandy, and more than 300 others. Drunk crew ran it aground in the English Channel. There was one survivor, a butcher from Rouen, and the loss was followed by 20 years of civil war over the English crown. 300
1647 Dutch Republic Princess Amelia – On 27 September, Captain Bol mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel and ran it aground off the Mumbles, Wales where it broke apart. Of 107 passengers aboard, 21 survived. 86
1682 England HMS Gloucester (1654) - wrecked off the port of Yarmouth while carrying James, Duke of York (who survived.) 150

Wartime disasters[edit]

Disasters with great loss of life can occur in times of armed conflict. Shown below are some of the known events with major losses.

Year Country Description Lives lost Image
256 BC
253 BC
Roman Republic First Punic War – In the First Punic War, between the Roman Republic and Carthage, a Roman fleet that had just rescued a Roman army from Africa was caught in a Mediterranean storm. 90,000+
Mongol Empire Kamikaze – The Mongol fleet destroyed by a typhoon. 100,000+
1588  Spain Spanish Armada – On 8 August, Philip II of Spain sent the Armada to invade England. Spain lost 15,000–20,000 soldiers and sailors, mainly in storms rather than battle.[1] 15,000–20,000
1589  England English Armada – Also known as the Counter Armada or the Drake-Norris Expedition, was a fleet of warships sent to the Iberian Coast by Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1589, during the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) and the Eighty Years' War. It was commanded by Sir Francis Drake as admiral and Sir John Norreys as general. The campaign resulted in the defeat of the English fleet and eventually to a withdrawal with great losses both in lives and ships. 11,000–15,000
1588  Spain Girona – On 28 October, as part of the Spanish Armada, the Spanish galleass was sunk in a gale off Ireland. Of the estimated 1,300 people aboard, nine survived; 260 bodies were washed ashore. 1,291
1564  Sweden Mars – A Swedish warship that was sunk 18 kilometres north of Öland during the Northern Seven Years' War. The crown ship of King Eric XIV of Sweden's fleet. The gunpowder store exploded and as many as 1,000 people, including Swedes and the invading Lübeckians, died.[2] 900–1100
1692  France Soleil Royal – On 3 June, in the Battle of La Hougue, the French flagship was attacked by 17 ships at Pointe du Hommet. The ship managed to repel them with artillery fire, but a fire ship set its stern afire and the fire soon reached its powder rooms. The people of Cherbourg came to the rescue, but there was only one survivor out of 883 to 950 crew. 882–949
1676  Sweden Kronan – In the Battle of Öland, the warship capsized while turning. Gunpowder aboard ignited and exploded. Of the estimated 800 aboard, 42 survived. 758
1545  England Mary Rose – The warship sank in the Battle of the Solent on 19 July. The cause is unknown, but believed to have been due to water entering its open gunports. About 500 people were lost. 480–520
1591  England HMS Revenge – After being captured in battle, the English galleon was lost in a storm near the Azores. An estimated 200 Spanish sailors who captured it were lost. 200
1678  France Las Aves disaster – on 11 May a French fleet commanded by Admiral Jean II d'Estrées was wrecked on the Las Aves archipelago in the Caribbean Sea due to an error in navigation. Nine of the fleets 30 ships were lost. Estimates of the lives lost vary wildly, from 24 to more than 1,500. 24–1,500

18th century[edit]

19th century[edit]

20th century[edit]

World War I[edit]

World War II[edit]

21st century[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Queen Elizabeth I – Against the Spanish Armada". SparkNotes.
  2. ^ Mars (Swedish ship), "On 19 August 2011, it was announced that the shipwreck of Mars was discovered by the Ocean Discovery team!". Ocean Discovery.