There is a romantic element to the disaster of a shipwreck that is associated with no other form of transport. It may be that the ethos of ‘women and children first’ – established by the brave men of the HMS Birkenhead in 1845 – who, realizing that there were too few lifeboats for everybody, sacrificed themselves to save the most vulnerable. 460 heroes died that day, but this was a small number in maritime history. What’s more, while RMS Titanic may be the most notorious shipwreck on record, it is by no means the worst.
10. SS Eastland
SS Eastland was a passenger ship based in Chicago. In 1915 the vessel was chartered for a works outing to Michigan City, Indiana. Filled to capacity, the ship suddenly turned turtle in just 20 feet of water, apparently after a majority of the more than 2,700 passengers had assembled on one side. Part of the blame had to be new safety legislation, as the vessel was slightly top-heavy following the fitting of additional lifeboats to meet the new rules. As the ship rolled, hundreds became trapped or crushed by heavy furniture moving around inside the public areas and 845 poor people died.