But dozens of sunken ships remain on the ocean floor, awaiting rediscovery.
Here are some of the world’s most infamously elusive shipwrecks, plus a few you can see for yourself (some without even getting wet).
Santa Maria, Haiti
That’s at least one theory. But the Italian explorer’s ship met its fate, excitement bubbling up in May 2014, when archaeologist Barry Clifford claimed he happened upon the long-lost wreckage.
The Santa Maria is still there, somewhere.
Flor de la Mar, Sumatra
A replica of the Flor de la Mar stands in front of the Maritime Museum in Malacca, Malaysia.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the Flor de la Mar would go down, which it did during a severe storm off Sumatra, Indonesia in 1511.
Most of the crew perished and the loot – reportedly the entire personal fortune of a Portuguese governor, worth a staggering $2.6 billion in current money – was lost.
SS Waratah, Durban (South Africa)
It may not have its own theme song sung by Celine Dion, but the SS Waratah is known as “Australia’s Titanic” – and for good reason.
The Waratah, a passenger freighter built to travel between Europe and Australia with a stopover in Africa, disappeared shortly after steaming up from the city of Durban in present-day South Africa in 1909 – just three years before the Titanic tragedy. As for the cause, theories abound.
The entire ship, complete with eight staterooms, a music lounge, and all 211 passengers and crew, was never found. Ninety years after the Waratah crashed, the National Underwater and Marine Agency thought they had finally found it, but it was a false alarm.
Said the late thriller writer Clive Cussler, who spent much of his life searching for the wreckage, “I think she’ll remain elusive for a while.”
USS Indianapolis, Philippine Sea
Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer” might yield a raunchy 17% for the 2016 Nicolas Cage film, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage,” but in real life, the ship played a decisive role in World War II.
Dropping off the deadly cargo went without a hitch, but on the return voyage, Indianapolis was hit by a Japanese submarine, killing many crew members from shark attacks and salt poisoning.
Slave Ships, North Atlantic
A man snaps a photo of a pulley block, one of many recovered artifacts unearthed from the sunken São José.
Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images
Not just one shipwreck, but a very gruesome genre of it.
It is estimated that some 1,000 ships now lying at the bottom of the ocean were complicit in the evil “triangle trade” across the Atlantic, which forced some 12-13 million Africans into slavery.
Others, such as the Clotilda, were deliberately sunk by their owners to cover up evidence of slave trade, long after the 1807 law banning the importation of slaves.
It is impossible to retrieve such objects without also bringing up stories of human suffering, although the aim of DWP is to document the nefarious legacy of slavery and use it to educate and enlighten.
Yet such ships are notoriously elusive, and many may never see the light of day again.
Shipwrecks you can visit
Mehmed Çakir was diving for sponges off the coast of Yalıkavak, Turkey, in 1982 when he found the remains of a trading ship that sank here some 3,000 years earlier.
De Vasa, Stockholm
The Vasa is now on display in a museum in Stockholm.
Anders Wiklund/AFP/Getty Images
Eerily intact, the 17th-century warship Vasa looks more like a prop from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, than a ship that first (and last) set sail in 1628.
The Swedish colossus made it about 1,300 meters from the harbor before sinking, only to be lifted from its silty grave some 333 years later.
Since the opening of a special museum in Stockholm in 1990, the Vasa has become one of the world’s least elusive shipwrecks, viewed by some 25 million visitors to date.
MV Captayannis, River Clyde
Spyed on from the banks of the River Clyde at Greenock in Scotland, you might mistake the wreck of the MV Captayannis for a recently deceased whale.
The black hull of this Greek sugar-carrying boat, rolled on its side, is a favorite haunt for feathered residents of a nearby bird sanctuary — and has been since the ship sank in a squall in January 1974.
It is said that no one took responsibility for the so-called ‘sugar boat’, hence it is still stuck in a sandbar – an opaque reminder of the capriciousness of the sea.
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
If your boat floats by diving, chances are you’ve heard of Chuuk Lagoon.
On this sprinkling of islands, 1,000 miles northeast of Papua New Guinea, the Japanese established their most formidable World War II naval base—that is, until Operation Hailstone was launched in 1944, which killed allied forces with some 60 Japanese troops. ships and planes to a seaman’s grave.
MS World Discoverer, Solomon Islands
“Open 24 hours” declares Google Maps optimistic about the shipwreck of the MS World Discoverer.
Since the cruise ship MS World Discoverer collided with and half sank off the coast of Roderick Bay in the Solomon Islands in 2000, it has become a tourist attraction for passing ships (all passengers, it must be said, were helped to get to safety). ).
Rusting gently, on a 46-degree frame, the ship appears to have turned on its side and gone to sleep. If nothing else, count the lifeboats on your own ship as you sail past.