What does it mean to avoid wrecks?
Probably the best-known shipping disaster in history is the sinking of the Titanic on April 14, 1912. The passenger ship was the largest of its kind at the time and was considered unsinkable. The Titanic was on its maiden voyage from Southampton in the UK towards New York.
Although Captain Edward J. Smith had received several iceberg warnings over the radio, the ship was sailing at full speed on the calm seas. At 11:40 p.m. the seaman Frederick Fleet, sitting in the lookout, saw something swimming in the water.
The Titanic was only a few hundred yards from the disaster. Sailor Fleet rang the signal bell and picked up the phone: "Iceberg starboard ahead". But the collision could no longer be prevented.
An impact shook the luxury ship. Water penetrated the hull and rose rapidly higher. The passengers fled to the ship's deck, but there was hardly any space in the few lifeboats.
Of the more than 2,200 people on board, only 711 were rescued - all the others died in the icy floods. The Titanic lies on the seabed at a depth of about 3800 meters, about 300 nautical miles southeast of Newfoundland.
On January 19, 1883, the Hapag transatlantic liner Cimbria, led by Captain Hansen, set sail from Hamburg. On board the steamship were mostly German emigrants who wanted to try their luck in the New World. But already near the North Sea island of Borkum, the ship collided with the English coal steamer Sultan in thick fog.
The Cimbria had heard another ship's foghorn but was unable to locate it. When the oncoming ship was recognized, it was already too late for an evasive maneuver. The steamer Sultan rammed the Cimbria on the port side. The Cimbria began to sink immediately afterwards, as the ship's side had been torn open below the waterline.
The Sultan herself had major problems due to the impact of the two ships, so that their crew could not help the people on the Cimbria. 401 passengers and 35 crew members of the Cimbria lost their lives in the ice-cold water. 56 people were picked up by other ships in their lifeboats. Another nine survivors reached the island of Borkum with their boat.
Since the wreck of the Cimbria lies at a depth of only 30 meters, dives to recover various artifacts have been carried out since 2001, including many objects made of Meissen porcelain. The finds that have already been raised can be viewed in various exhibitions, for example on the island of Borkum. The supposedly greatest treasure, a bulging safe belonging to the industrialist Moritz Strauss, has not yet been found.
The sinking of the freighter Goya is one of the worst shipping disasters of modern times. On April 16, 1945, the Goya began her voyage from the Hela peninsula in the Danzig Bay towards Swinoujscie on the island of Usedom. The overcrowded war refugee ship was only able to set sail at 7 p.m. because it was repeatedly shot at during embarkation.
German refugees from East Prussia and wounded Wehrmacht soldiers were on board. From the beginning it was clear that the crossing would be very risky, as numerous Soviet submarines were patrolling the Gdańsk Bay.
Shortly before midnight, the Goya was actually tracked down by one of the submarines and hit by two torpedoes. They tore up the side wall and the freighter sank in just a few minutes. An estimated 7,000 people drowned, only 176 were saved.
Ulrich Restemeyer and his expedition team found the wreck of the Goya in 2003. The German war refugee ship was not lifted out of respect for the dead.
The divers did not venture into the wreck either, in order not to disturb the peace and quiet of the many people who had died. In the meantime the Goya has been declared a naval war grave. Dives are only conducted to check the condition of the wreck and to protect the interior from looting.
The passenger steamer Wilhelm Gustloff belonged to the fleet of the National Socialist leisure organization "Kraft durch Freude" (KdF) and was considered the dream ship of Nazi Germany. After her launch in 1937, the Gustloff went on cruises in the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.
It had only outside cabins and was equipped with a swimming pool, seven bars, dance halls, an on-board cinema and a music hall. During the Second World War, the Gustloff was initially converted into a hospital ship, before being used as a floating barracks in Gotenhafen for four years from 1940 at the gates of Danzig.
Towards the end of the war she acted as a refugee ship and took part in the largest sea rescue operation in history: the evacuation of German refugees across the Baltic Sea to western Germany.
On January 30, 1945, the former cruise ship left the East German Gotenhafen heading for Kiel. An estimated 8,000 people huddled together in a confined space, many were housed in the drained swimming pool: officers and soldiers of the Navy, crew members, naval helpers, wounded and several thousand refugees, more than half of whom were still children.
The military commander Wilhelm Zahn suggested sneaking along the coast because of the danger posed by Russian submarines. Submarines cannot operate in shallow coastal waters. But Captain Petersen chose the way through deep water because he found the ship hopelessly overloaded. At 9.15 p.m. the disaster happened:
The Russian submarine S13 fired four torpedoes from a distance of only 700 meters, three of which hit the Wilhelm Gustloff. The first torpedo hit the bow, number two destroyed the swimming pool area and the third hit the engine room. The ship sank only an hour later, twelve nautical miles from Stolpmünde. Only 1252 people could be saved by ships hurrying up.
This wreck was also discovered by the conservationist Ulrich Restemeyer, this time in 1991. Even today, the wreck, protected from salvage as a naval war grave, lies at the site of the accident at a depth of 42 meters.
Behind the British sailing ship Jamaica Merchant is a more than 300 year old pirate story. The captain of the pirate ship was the famous privateer Sir Henry Morgan. Morgan was born in Wales around 1635 and died on August 25, 1688 as a result of severe drunkenness in Jamaica.
He was one of the most famous pirates and for a long time plundered the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. With his crew he captured the cargoes of numerous ships and took them to Port Royal, Jamaica, in the UK.
His greatest coup against archenemy Spain came in 1671 with the conquest of Panama, which at that time was the largest and richest settlement in Spanish America. He looted the city and burned it to the ground.
At the height of his career, the common man from Wales was made lieutenant governor of the island of Jamaica by King Charles II in London in 1674 and raised to the nobility.
In 1676 Sir Henry Morgan left London and returned to the Caribbean with his new flagship, the Jamaica Merchant. The sailing ship was a high-walled three-master made of fine wood, equipped with 20 to 25 guns of different calibers. Morgan drove along the reefs of the old treasure island L'Ile à Vache.
But he made a serious navigational error. The ship crashed on the reefs and sank just off the coast of Haiti. In a contemporary report, the sinking is scheduled for February 25, 1676. Henry Morgan and his crew were picked up from a passing ship and taken to Port Royal.
The treasure hunter Klaus Keppler found the trail of the pirate ship Jamaica Merchant in old documents. In 2001 he was able to locate a more than 300 year old wreck in the waters off the coast of Haiti. Based on the artifacts found, it stands to reason that they are the remains of the Jamaica Merchant.
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