If you’re like most kids, you’ve probably become fascinated at one time or another with the story of the Titanic. Whether you’ve learned about this famous sunken ship in history class or by watching the popular movie of the same name, it’s an incredible story that has made the Titanic the most famous sunken ship of all time.

Sunken ships are more commonly known as shipwrecks. The word “shipwreck” accurately describes what’s left of a ship that has sunk. There are many reasons why ships wreck. In the case of the Titanic, an iceberg breached its hull and the ship took on water that caused it to sink.

Other ships might wreck because of tropical storms, such as hurricanes. In times of war, ships may be wrecked by torpedoes and other weapons launched by enemy ships and airplanes. Of course, these are only a few of the hundreds of ways that a ship might end up wrecked at the bottom of the sea.

Sometimes shipwrecks are huge, like the Titanic or military battleships. Other shipwrecks may be small, such as small fishing boats. Over the course of history, the oceans of the world have claimed the lives of many ships. How many? The United Nations estimates that there are over 3 million shipwrecks at the bottom of the world’s oceans!

Hunting for shipwrecks is an attractive hobby to all sorts of different people. Maritime archeologists, for example, might search for historic shipwrecks with the hope of learning more about the past. Just think about what you might be able to learn from the wreck of a 16th-century ship used for exploration.

Treasure hunters, on the other hand, might look for shipwrecks with the hope of finding money, jewels or other valuable items. Pirate ships, for example, might have chests full of gold just waiting to be found!

Would you believe that some ships today are sunk on purpose? Why would someone do such a thing? As it turns out, it can be good for the environment! In certain areas around the world, ships are sunk on purpose to create artificial reefs that can become a habitat for a wide variety of marine life. They also make really cool places to scuba dive!

If you find a sunken ship, can you raise it back to the surface? That’s a difficult question to answer, because it depends upon many factors. What condition is the ship in? After being underwater for many years, most ships are too weak to be raised back to the surface without being completely destroyed in the process.

More recent shipwrecks, however, might be able to be raised. Doing so can take lots of money and advanced technology. Most shipwrecks are simply left where they are unless they pose a danger to the environment.

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    • We LOVE all these BRIGHT guesses coming from Mrs. Bayko’s Class! Thank you for using your creativity and imagination with us– we cannot wait to discover tomorrow’s Wonder together! We Wonder if you learned something new or did any WONDERing on your own this weekend? :)

  1. I once saw the Titanic movie, over a thousand people went on to go to America. People say the ship was unbreakable, but when the iceberg hit, it started to sink. Half of the people stayed on bored to stay with their money. Finally, the people who survived made it to New York I think, on another boat. :-( :-P

    • You’ve made a great connection to today’s Wonder, Carlos! The story of the Titanic is a sad but true historical event. Like the Titanic, many ships that were once floating are now at the bottom of various oceans. Many of these shipwrecks are discovered or searched by professional scuba divers and archeologists! Through the discoveries of artifacts, professionals can learn about the past and perhaps what happened on the ship. Unfortunately, because we can no longer interview those who were on the ship, the personal lives of the passengers are left up to the imagination.
      Divers continue to search for clues about the Titanic and other shipwrecks, but we Wonder if you’ve done any artifact WONDERing of your own? :)

    • What a super question, Jeovany! We Wonder if you can use today’s Wonder to do some research of your own about the historic event that took place the night of April 14, 1912– more than 100 years ago! There is a great deal of historical evidence and accounts of passengers who survived the terrible shipwreck and icy cold waters. We’d love to hear about what you can find– keep up the great WONDERing, Jeovany! :)

  2. We loved today’s wonder about shipwrecks. We can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s wonder will be about. We’ve had many great predictions such as, lightning, the sun, electricity, lightning bugs and lighthouses. We will tune in tomorrow to find out!

    • We are sending a great BIG hello to all the WONDERful students in Mrs. Underwood’s Class! We are so excited that you enjoyed exploring the deep sea with us today! :)

      We think those are some stellar guesses– quite bright indeed! Thank you for posting your guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder… we can’t wait to find out what it is! :)

    • Thanks for leaving a comment today, Wonder Friend! We are glad you’ve joined the adventure, searching for hidden treasure and ships from the past! :)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We learned a lot about the Titanic today! Tomorrow we predict the Wonder will be about any of the following:
    -flashlight
    -lightning
    -sun
    -fireworks
    -electricity
    -candle
    -fire

    We look forward to finding out tomorrow!
    Ms. Davidson’s Third Grade Class

    • Thank you for sharing your BRIGHT guesses, Ms. Davidson’s Third Grade students! We are so glad that you’re WONDERing with us about the Titanic and other historic ships. We LOVE keeping the Wonder alive with a great class like yours! :)

    • You’ve got a GLOWING guess for tomorrow’s Wonder, WONDERman!! We can’t wait to find out what bright, exciting thing we are going to learn about tomorrow! :)

    • Thank you for sharing such WONDERful information with fellow Wonder Friends, WONDERman! We are so excited that you and Jeovany can do some WONDERing on your own about other famous ships and the stories that go with them! Have a SUPER day! :)

  4. SO CLOSE!!!!!!

    Have a WONDERful day.
    P.S. I think tomorrow’s Wonder is about the sun or where does light come from.

    • You were quite close to guessing today’s Wonder, Tiauna– we’re giving you a virtual thumbs up for your effort!! We hope you enjoyed exploring the depths of the sea with us today and we cannot wait to discover tomorrow’s Wonder with you, either! We hope you have a SUPER BRIGHT day!! :)

  5. I got it wrong, oh well it was still a really cool subject!
    I think tomorrow’s wonder is about the sun or Thomas Edison! :)
    WONDERopolis has been WONDERful today!!

    • Not to worry, A ‘n’ A, you had a SUPER guess. Using your imagination is a great way to guess and Wonder– we think you’re doing a ROCKSTAR job of it! Thanks for posting your guess for tomorrow’s newest and brightest Wonder… we think Thomas Edison will be smiling tomorrow!

      We hope you have a SUPER WONDER-filled day!! :)

  6. Hi wonderoplis,

    I like how this is made it is very awesome and I like this story because it had awesome pictures and a lovely sound.

    From Sapphire :)

    • We are thrilled that you enjoyed today’s Wonder, Sapphire! We liked the video and song that went along with the Wonder– it was a great way to learn about all the stories behind each ship. Thank you for WONDERing with us today! :)

  7. I believe that sunken ships should not be lifted to the surface, unless the shipwreck is causing severe problems. I think that when a shipwreck is found, it should be carefully preserved and protected.
    The Titanic story is tragic, yet the bravery of the survivors is inspiring. I hate that the servants were kept from leaving, and find the segregation sickening.
    I believe that tomorrow’s Wonder of the day will be Glowsticks.
    P.S. I would appreciate it if you described things in the Comments section with a different adjective than WONDERful. Aren’t you trying to encourage a large vocabulary?

    • Hi there, Tori! We are so appreciative of your post, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the events surrounding the Titanic. We value your comment and are so happy that you’re WONDERing with us, too! Thank you for sharing your guess for tomorrow’s BRIGHT Wonder! :)

      We LOVE learning new words and enhancing our vocabulary here at Wonderopolis! At the end of each Wonder, we include a vocabulary list pulled from the Wonder of the Day®! Thank you for using your imagination and building your vocabulary with us! :)

    • Ahoy, Ellery! Thanks for WONDERing with us about sunken ships– just like the Titanic! The unfortunate sinking of the Titanic certainly happened, in April of 1912 to be exact. We are glad you have learned something new and cool about the world under the water. Have a great day! :)

    • Great question, Josh! We didn’t take the picture, but a very talented photographer in Egypt took a picture of this sunken ship! We think it’s very, very cool! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How do you find a sunken ship?
  • How many shipwrecks sit at the bottom of the world’s oceans?
  • Is it possible to raise a sunken ship?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Want to find your own sunken ship? If there are really over three million sunken ships at the bottom of the Earth’s seas, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one, right? Well, the oceans do cover a lot of territory.

Maybe it would be best to focus your efforts on finding a famous sunken ship. For possible search targets, check out the 10 Most Incredible Sunken Ships on Earth online!

If you found a sunken ship, what would you do with it? Would you try to raise it to the surface? That might be more difficult than you might think. Visit PBS FRONTIERS to explore their web feature called Raising Sunken Ships.

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Sleuthing for a Lost Ship lesson, children will consider the ways in which geography is not merely an academic discipline but also a field of study with interesting and practical applications.

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