Show Mobile Navigation
Mysteries |

10 Fabled Shipwrecks That Have Yet to Be Found

by Jessica Fleming-Montoya
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

The RMS Titanic is one of the most famous and terrible shipwrecks to ever have occurred, and thanks to modern technology, we’ve been able to recuperate a number of treasures lost in its bowls. However, not all shipwrecks have left so many traces. Here are ten fabled shipwrecks that have yet to be found.

Related: 10 Fascinating Finds And Stories Involving Old Ships

10 The Merchant Royal

The Merchant Royal was a British merchant ship that had been used for trading in the West Indies. The ship was launched in 1627, but just over a decade later, it sailed its last journey.

In 1641, the Merchant Royal was headed back to London after a successful trading session when it started leaking. Unfortunately, due to the ship’s generally poor condition, the leak was enough to sink the boat off the coast of Cornwall.

Despite the fact that the ship’s last location is known, no one has been able to find the ship. The (likely) anchor turned up in a search in 2019, but the rest of the ship remains lost to this day.[1]

9 The Cinco Chagas

The 40 Billion Dollar Pirate Treasure Just Right Over There

The Cinco Chagas was a nau, or a Portuguese sailing ship, built in Goa, much like the ship she took her name from, the Cinque Chagas. This particular ship took off on her maiden voyage in 1593 from Goa.

However, just one year later, she was caught in the Action of Faial, a battle near the Island of Faial during the Anglo-Spanish war. The Cinco Chagas and her cargo, which is said to have been worth around $20 billion US, sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor.

Although the ship and its treasure have never been found, it’s thought that the wreck lies somewhere between Pico Island and Faial. Still, the ship has yet to be discovered, as does all its treasure.[2]

8 The Santa Maria

Yep, Experts Say The Santa Maria Is Still Lost

The Santa Maria is one of Christopher Columbus’s famous ships, which he used for his initial voyage to the Americas in 1492. It was one of three ships that he took with him on his expedition.

Sadly, however, this ship, unlike its two sisters, would never make it to the Americas. In 1492 on Christmas Eve, a cabin boy took over the helm while the more experienced crew members got some sleep.

Not knowing how to sail a ship properly, the cabin boy steered the boat into a coral reef off the coast of Haiti. Although the crew managed to get themselves and their cargo offboard, the ship sank, never to be seen again.

Today, the ship is thought to be buried under enough layers of sand that it will most likely never be recovered.[3]

7 Le Griffon

Shipwrecked: The Search For Le Griffon

Le Griffon was a French ship that, unlike many of the other shipwrecks out there, operated in the Great Lakes in the United States rather than on the ocean. This ship began operations in the 1670s and was the first sailing ship to operate on the Great Lakes.

Despite several years of successful sailing, the ship sailed on her last voyage in September 1679, when she headed out on a journey across Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island. At the time, she was carrying a cargo of furs for trading.

However, somewhere along the way, something happened, and the ship disappeared. To this day, we still don’t know where the ship lies or what happened to her and her cargo. Although treasure hunters have attempted to find the wreck, as of 2023, their efforts have been in vain.[4]

6 The Flor de la Mar

Flor de la Mar – The lost treasure ship

The Flor de la Mar was built in Portugal around 1502 and was used both for trade and battle. The ship had a relatively successful career until it made a fated voyage to Malacca in 1511.

The trouble was, at this point, the ship was nine years old and was already starting to show signs of leaks, needing regular repairs. Still, the ship managed to make its way to Malacca without incident, where it is rumored to have picked up a cargo hold full of gold, diamonds, and other treasures.

Before it left port, the ship was deemed unsafe. However, that didn’t stop the crew. Determined to get their riches back to Lisbon, the ship set off again for Portugal. Tragically, a storm broke out as the ship was sailing through the Strait of Malacca, and the ship and its riches went down.

Of course, since the ship was laden with so many riches, search efforts were undertaken to find the ship. Despite this, the ship was never found, and even today, eager treasure hunters have had no luck recuperating the lost boat.[5]

5 The MS München

Did a Rogue Wave Sink the MS München?

The MS München was a German lighter aboard ship, or LASH ship, from the Hapag-Lloyd company. It was built in 1972 and typically sailed between Bremerhaven, Germany, and Georgia, USA.

On December 7, 1978, the ship embarked on her 62nd voyage along her usual route, carrying steel cargo and 28 crew members. However, the voyage didn’t go as usual this time around. Sometime in the early hours of the morning on December 12, the ship put out a distress call due to bad weather. The signals continued until around 7:00 am, and later that evening, a search party was launched.

Despite receiving periodic mayday messages throughout the following days, the search party wasn’t able to find the ship. After eight days of hunting by 13 aircraft and 80 merchant ships, the search party was called off.

Although the wreck was never found and the reason for the wreck has never been explained, two months after the disaster, one of the MS München’s lifeboats turned up. However, the boat was empty, and to this day, no one knows where the ship itself or the crew’s final resting place is.[6]

4 Bonhomme Richard

The Tragic Sinking Of The Bonhomme Richard Explained

The Bonhomme Richard was a frigate built in 1766 by a French company for the Continental Navy and was used during the American Revolution to fight against the British. It was named after Benjamin Franklin, who had published writings in Paris with the title Les Maximes de Bonhomme Richard.

In general, the Bonhomme Richard had a successful career, managing to catch a total of 16 British ships. However, the ship’s victory was short-lived. On September 23, 1766, the ship was hit by enemy fire, and the ship began to burn. After 36 hours of attempting to rescue the boat, the ship finally sank.

Although the ship itself has never been found, there is a model of the ship in the National Museum of the U.S. Navy. So if you’re curious about what this vessel would have looked like, you can just take a trip to Washington, D.C., to check it out.[7]

3 The SS Marine Sulphur Queen

The obvious disappearance of the Marine Sulphur Queen | OC Unsolved S1E5

The SS Marine Sulphur Queen was a T2 tanker that was built in Pennsylvania in 1944 to carry oil. However, in 1960, the ship was converted into a vessel that could carry molten sulfur.

Sadly, it turns out that this wasn’t the best decision. On February 2, 1963, just three years after becoming a sulfur carrier, she set out on her final voyage. However, what’s particularly strange is that the ship didn’t send any distress signals—it simply disappeared.

After giving a location report on February 4, the ship vanished from all communication radars while it was somewhere along the southern coast of Florida. During its disappearance, the ship took 39 crew members’ lives with it.

Although there was one report of the ship’s wreckage turning up in a desert in Libya, this hasn’t been verified, and the location of the shipwreck remains a mystery today.[8]

2 The USS Cyclops

The Mystery Of Bermuda Triangle’s Deadly Secret: What Happened To The Navy Ship USS Cyclops?

The USS Cyclops was a collier that helped U.S. war efforts in European waters, the Caribbean, and the Atlantic seaboard. It was built in 1910 in Philadelphia and operated successfully until early March 1918.

That’s when the ship made a voyage to Brazil. On its way back to the U.S. from the South American country, the ship and its entire crew vanished without a trace. Due to the fact that this was during World War I, the U.S. Navy suspected that a German submarine had sunk the ship.

Multiple search efforts were launched to recover the ship, but it was never recovered. To this day, we still have no information as to why the ship sank or where it lies, although there are several theories that have been put out.

Besides being sunk by a German submarine, some believe the captain got drunk and ran the ship aground. Other theorists believe the ship was overloaded and sank due to its weight. Whatever the case, we likely won’t know until we find the wreck.[9]

1 The General Grant

General Grant Gets Lost in the Aucklands (1866)

The General Grant was a three-mast sailing ship built in Maine in 1864. It was named after Union Army General Ulysses S. Grant.

On May 14, 1866, the General Grant made a fateful journey from Melbourne to London. As it passed the Auckland Islands off the shore of New Zealand, it hit cliffs along the coast of one of the islands and went down.

At the time, there were 83 people on board the ship, although only 15 people made it to shore. The fifteen castaways faced harsh subarctic winds and had to use the few resources they had to build a fire and survive. After nine months of being stranded on the islands, four of the castaways took a small boat to attempt an escape. They were never seen again.

The remaining castaways, apart from one who died of sickness, were rescued by a whaling ship in November 1867, meaning they had survived 18 months on the islands. Interestingly enough, although the castaways were found, the shipwreck never was, and it remains lost to this day.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen