Numidia was built in Scotland and embarked on her maiden voyage in February 1901. However, the ship’s second journey would be her last.
After a smooth passage of the Suez Canal, she hit the Big Brother Lighthouse and the bow was seriously damaged.
The captain ordered the crew into the lifeboats. He stayed for seven weeks on the island to supervise the salvage of the cargo before the hull finally slid into the depths at the reef’s northern tip.
The marine life and especially the soft corals on Numidia are splendid and the setting with the impressive stern on 80m and the reef in the background is a spectacular sight.
Type: Steam cargo ship
Area: Brothers Islands, northern Red Sea
Depth: Stern 80m, bow 10m
Lost: 6 July, 1901
The only wreck on the list scuttled on purpose, which among some purists disqualifies the Oriskany as a “real” wreck, but the sheer size of the Mighty O for me is enough to warrant a nomination. And she is one of the very few aircraft-carrier wrecks in the world.
USS Oriskany was completed right after WW2 and operated in the Pacific into the 1970s. She served during the Korean War and later the Vietnam War.
After being decommissioned in 1976, she lay idle for almost 30 years until it was decided to scuttle her outside Pensacola in Florida.
It took a lot of work to clean the enormous vessel and make her environmentally ready for disposal on the seabed. And the wreck remains the biggest artificial reef in the world.
Area: Mexican Gulf
Depth: 64m, flight deck 41m
Scuttled: 17 May, 2006
Built as an American luxury ocean liner in 1931, the Coolidge served as a troopship during the beginning of WW2. She sank after hitting two mines in the New Hebrides (today part of Vanuatu). The captain realised that the ship was lost, so he ran her aground and ordered the 5340 troops to disembark without their belongings, as he thought they would be able to retrieve them later. But shortly afterwards, the enormous wreck slid down the sloping coral reef.
President Coolidge is probably the most accessible large ocean-liner wreck and you need several dives to explore the almost 200m ship. But beware, as it is very easy to exceed dive limits because of the gradual downward slope.
Type: Ocean liner
Area: Vanuatu, Pacific Ocean
Depth: Bow 21m, stern 73m
Lost: 26 October 1942
The German heavy cruiser was launched in 1938. She saw lots of action in famous battles during WW2, primarily in the North Sea war theatre.
After the collapse of the Axis Powers in 1945, she ended up with the US Navy as a war prize, and it was decided to include her in Operation Crossroads, to evaluate the effect of a nuclear bomb on a German built battleship.
Prinz Eugen survived both atomic blasts and was later towed to Kwajalein Atoll 400 miles away. She started to take in water, but the leak could not be fixed because of the radiation.
She capsized and sank in shallow water. Today the enormous wreck can be dived easily, because the propeller sticks out of the water.
Type: Heavy cruiser
Area: Kwajalein Atoll
Lost: 22 December, 1946
San Francisco Maru
In 1944 Operation Hailstone wiped out most of the Japanese Pacific fleet and 275 aircraft in Truk Lagoon in just two days. With 60 wrecks from which to choose, it’s difficult to single out one, and at least five other Truk wrecks could easily have been on the list.
But there is a reason why San Francisco Maru is one of the most famous wrecks in the lagoon. It is loaded to the brim with war materials like the small Japanese HA-GO tanks, trucks, various types of ammunition, mines and aircraft parts.
And it is in good shape, because it is one of the deeper wrecks.
Type: Passenger cargo ship
Area: 4th fleet anchorage, Chuuk, Micronesia
Lost: 17 February, 1944
In 1946 the USA conducted Operation Crossroads in Bikini to test the impact of atomic explosions on military vessels.
The 270m aircraft-carrier USS Saratoga had an impressive track record and had been involved in many major conflicts and campaigns during WW2, but after the war she became a sitting duck in Bikini. She survived the first blast, but succumbed to the second three weeks later.
Sara is most likely the largest diveable wreck in the world, and with so many penetration possibilities and an abundance of details inside and outside, you could easily go to Bikini and dive this wreck alone for a week. In fact, if the aircraft-carrier was the only wreck there, it would still be worth the long journey.
Area: Bikini Atoll
Lost: 25 July, 1946
A favorite scene in Thistlegorm with a BSA motorcycle in the first cargo hold. Red Sea, Egypt. Nikon D300, 15mm f5, 1/60, ISO400.
One thing is certain: no diving career is complete without this wreck in the logbook. In September 1941, this merchant ship was part of a convoy up through the Red Sea.
While at anchor waiting for the Suez Canal to open, her ammunition stores in hold 4 were struck by a 2.5-ton bomb from a German Heinkel He 111, and she sank immediately.
The Thistlegorm wreck owes its stardom to the amazing cargo of military vehicles, motorbikes, airplane spare parts, weapons and ammunition aboard. But its legacy is even more impressive, because it was found and explored (looted) by Jacques Cousteau in the early 1950s.
And then it was lost again, until an Israeli liveaboard rediscovered it in the early 1990s. Since then, the huge number of divers every day has taken its toll and parts have collapsed, but this is still an epic dive.
Type: Cargo ship
Area: Strait of Gubal, northern Red Sea
Lost: 6 October, 1941
Italy had not officially joined WW2 on the German side when Umbria, fully laden with ammunition and war supplies, was anchored outside Port Sudan. The British had suspicions, and detained the Italian ship and its crew.
Umbria’s captain heard Italy’s declaration of war on the radio and realised that the Brits would impound the cargo, so he managed to scuttle the 155m ship under the pretence of carrying out a muster drill.
Umbria lies on the port side with the davits still sticking out of the water. It has enough explosives in its hull to blow Port Sudan to kingdom come.
Type: Cargo & passenger ship
Area: Wingate Reef, Port Sudan, Red Sea
Lost: 9 June, 1941
Yongala steamed into a tropical cyclone, and 122 crew and passengers died in the disaster. The wreck was not located until 1958, and has since become a major Great Barrier Reef tourist attraction.
Because of the many fatalities penetration of the wreck is not allowed, but the marine life surrounding Yongala is amazing, as the structure provides an oasis in the barren underwater landscape.
Majestic seafans and other soft and hard corals decorate the reef. Giant grouper, eagle rays, mantas and various sharks are spotted frequently and the site is also visited by minke or humpback whales between June and November.
Type: Passenger ship
Area: Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Lost: 23 March, 1903
The Swedish ro-ro ferry was on her maiden voyage from Malmö, Sweden, bound for Syria. During a stop at Cyprus, the ship began listing to port and it was discovered that excess water was being pumped into the ballast tanks because of a computer malfunction.
She was towed out of the harbour in Larnaca to prevent her from becoming an obstruction, and a few days later the captain gave up and ordered everybody to leave the sinking ship, with its cargo of trucks estimated to be worth £200 million.
The enormous wreck has been very important for the diving industry in Cyprus, and Zenobia is a giant playground for divers at all levels.
Type: Roll-on roll-off ferry
Area: Larnaca, Cyprus
Lost: 7 June, 1980