Traveling by ship is safer than ever. Twenty-eight people died worldwide aboard cruise ships between 2002 and 2011, according to a GP Wild International study commissioned by the cruise ship industry. That report preceded the January 2012 capsizing of the Costa Concordia, but even its casualties were few compared with a century ago, when the Titanic was just one of four shipwrecks, over a three-year period, that involved more than 1,000 fatalities.
Titanic, April 15, 1912
Titanic’s1,517 casualties don’t make it America’s deadliest marine disaster. That distinction belongs to the Sultana, a Mississippi River steamer whose boiler exploded near Memphis, Tenn., in 1865, killing more than 1,700, according to National Geographic. But the Titanic continues to haunt us a century later, and not just because of the big-budget movie. It sank on its maiden voyage, and its opulent guest list, filled with members of New York’s high society, gave it an air of glamour. Technological advances were supposed to have made it unsinkable, and the mental image of the enormous ship — and many of its passengers — plunging 2 1/2 miles, bow first, to the bottom of the Atlantic is unforgettable.
Costa Concordia, Jan. 13, 2012
Thirty-two people died when Concordia hit the rocks off the Mediterranean island of Giglio. Capt. Francesco Schettino was accused of abandoning ship before all of the 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew members were evacuated and the vessel listed to one side. Six weeks later, an engine room fire left its sister ship Costa Allegra adrift in pirate-infested waters for three days before it limped into port in the Seychelles islands.
Andrea Doria, July 25, 1956
The pride of the Italian fleet at the time, the Andrea Doria was the country’s largest, fastest and safest passenger ship. But after crashing into the Stockholm about 45 miles south of Nantucket, Mass., the vessel teetered to one side before sinking 11 hours later. A well-coordinated rescue effort prevented the accident from becoming a titanic tragedy: 1,660 passengers were saved, while 51 people died — 46 from the Andrea Doria and five from the Stockholm.
Príncipe de Asturias, March 5, 1916
The Spanish-flagged passenger liner Príncipe de Asturias plied the waters between Barcelona, Spain, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. The ship crashed into a reef off the coast of Santos, a city in southeastern Brazil, tearing a massive hole in its hull. Water quickly filled the hole, causing the boiler to explode, and the ship sank in minutes, taking more than 400 people with it.