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]

Many maritime disasters happen outside the realms of war. All ships, including those of the military, are vulnerable to problems from weather conditions, faulty design or human error. Some of the disasters below occurred in periods of conflict, although their losses were unrelated to any military action. The table listings are in descending order of the magnitude of casualties suffered.

Year Country Description Deaths Image
1694 England HMS Sussex – the third-rate was lost in a fierce storm on 1 March 1694 off Gibraltar. There were two survivors from a crew of 500. 498
1120  England White Ship – Ship carrying the heir to the English Throne and the Duchy of Normandy, and over 300 others. Drunk crew ran her aground in the English Channel. There were two survivors, and the loss was followed by 20 years of civil war over the English crown. 300 WhiteShipSinking.jpg
1647 Dutch Republic Princess Amelia – On 27 September 1647, Captain Bol mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel and ran her aground off the Mumbles, Wales where she broke apart. Of 107 passengers aboard, 21 survived. 86

Wartime disasters[edit]

Disasters with high losses 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 BCE
253 BCE
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. Rome may have lost more than 90,000 men. 90,000+
Mongol Empire Kamikaze - The Mongol fleet destroyed in a typhoon. 100,000+ MokoShurai.jpg
1588  Spain Spanish Armada – On 8 August 1588, 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 Invincible Armada.jpg
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 led by Sir Francis Drake as admiral and Sir John Norreys as general, and failed to drive home the advantage England had won upon the dispersal of the Spanish Armada in the previous year. The campaign resulted in the defeat of the English fleet and eventually to a withdrawal with heavy losses both in lives and ships. 11,000-15,000
1588  Spain Girona – On 28 October 1588, as part of the Spanish Armada, the Spanish galleass Girona was sunk in a gale off Ireland. Of the estimated 1,300 people aboard, nine survived; 260 bodies were washed ashore. 1,300
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 up to 1,000 men, including Swedes and the invading Lübeckians, died.[2] 900-1100 Jacob Hägg, Makalös eller Mars (1909).jpg
1692  France Soleil-Royal – On 3 June 1692, in the Battle of La Hougue, the French flagship was attacked by 17 ships at Pointe du Hommet. She managed to repel them with artillery fire, but a fire ship set her stern afire and it soon reached her powder rooms. The people of Cherbourg came to the rescue, but there was only one survivor from 883–950 crew. 882-949 La Marine-Pacini-45.png
1676  Sweden Kronan – In the Battle of Öland in 1676, 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 1545. The cause is unknown, but believed to have been due to water entering her open gunports and capsizing her. 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 in 1591. An estimated 200 Spanish sailors who captured her were lost. 200 Revenge surrendered.jpg
1678  France Las Aves disaster – on 11 May 1678 a French fleet under Adm. Jean II d'Estrées was wrecked on the Las Aves archipelago due to an error in navigation. Nine of the fleets 30 ships were lost. Estimates of the lives lost vary wildly, from 24 to over 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.