Skip to main content

True Stories of Ships Lost at Sea

Mrs. Fox, aka cmoneyspinner, former civil servant, now self-employed; engaged in multiple online endeavors, including freelance writing.

Mysteries Revealed

The wreckage of several ships lost at sea have now been found and their true stories have been brilliantly re-created so that now we know the rest of the story!

Three nonfiction books have been published that tell the true accounts of four shipwrecks.

- One tells the tale of the sinking of an Arab dhow that occurred in 9th century China.

- Another tells the story of two vessels that set sail from Australia and sank in 1864.

- The third book is an eyewitness account of two Spanish galleons that sank.

All 3 books answer the question everyone asks about any ship that sinks:

- Did the vessel carry a priceless treasure and how much of the treasure was recovered?

Should make for great reading, in the late hours on a rainy night.


Fact Versus Fiction: Which makes for a better story?

In the Walt Disney film "Shipwrecked" (1990), a young boy whose sailor-father is injured and can no longer work as a seaman. The 14-year old boy must take his father's place and work to earn money for his family.

On his first voyage, the ship sinks because of a hurricane and he ends up on a jungle island. The movie stars Gabriel Byrne as Lieutenant John Merrick; and Stian Smestad as the young boy, Haakon Haakonsen. It's a high-spirited adventure with pirates and prisoners. But it ends well.

Of course!. It's a Disney family movie!

Life of Pi, written by Yann Martel, is about Pi Patel, the teenaged son of a zookeeper, who survives a shipwreck. Pi is adrift at sea for seven and a half months and his only companion is a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Pi survives to tell his story but not before he experiences an exciting fantasy adventure. Award-winning filmmaker Ang Lee has adapted the story in a new movie released in 2012.

"Shipwrecked" and "Life of Pi" are both wonderful tales about shipwrecks.

BUT! They are entirely fiction.

* * * By Contrast:

Listed below are three books about very real events that happened to ships that set sale and never returned. You might find them much more fascinating reads. Plus, books about mysterious shipwrecks are a great addition to a private library! Whether or not it's the holiday season, one of these books might be the perfect gift for the swash-buckling seafaring adventurer / treasure hunter / survivalist on your list - who will finally get to know the rest of the story!

BOOK 1: Shipwrecked: Tang Treasures and Monsoon Winds

The Tang Dynasty lasted from 618 A.D. to 907 A,D, and is noted in Chinese history as a wealthy dynasty celebrated for encouraging the arts, especially poetry and ceramics, and for developing printing. Tang Dynasty was established by Emperor Gaozu - Li Yuan, who made Chang'an (Xian today) the capital. The other two emperors in this dynasty were Li Shimin, and Sui Yangdi.

The tales of Sinbad the Sailor are pure fiction based on whimsical thoughts of what could have happened to certain Arab seafarers. But authors, John Guy and Regina Krahl, tell the true stories behind a real shipwreck in the ninth century, the sailors who sailed it and its remarkable cargo.

Priceless treasure? Yes.

In 1998, over 60,000 Tang Dynasty treasures were recovered from an Arab ship that sank in the 9th century.

This Arab dhow which was buried at sea for more than a thousand years, carried treasure and quite a bit of it was recovered.

As for it's historical significance:

  • (07/29/2010) Per CNN: "The discovery of the old ship and its cargo verify the presence of trade between China and areas beyond the Persian Gulf before the Portuguese arrived in Asia."

Read More

BOOK 2: Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World

Speaking of Ms. Druett's book, Publisher's Weekly states: "She zeroes in on the salient details of their ordeals, identifying the plants that kept the castaways from contracting scurvy or sketching out an improvised recipe for soap with equal aplomb." [Release Date: 05/17/2007.]

Author, Joan Druett, retells the accounts of the survivors of two shipwrecked vessels in strict chronological order: the Grafton and the Invercauld. Both set sail from Australia. Both were shipwrecked on opposite ends of the same sub-Antarctic island. Druett used diaries and journals from men of both crews to recreate their stories.

Priceless treasure?

The answer is: "TREASURE!!! SMEASURE!!!", said one of the survivors, with his Aussie accent. "I'm stuck on an island with a crew of bloody heathen mates who turn out to be cannibals!!! Honestly! You think you know a person and then you find out their true colors when you're in a pinch! Better keep a diary as long I got me fingers to write!! AAARRRRR ... AAARRRR!!!!"

(That wasn't his exact words. It's a paraphrase.)

[I'm not Australian. In fact, I probably could not tell an Aussie accent from a Cockney accent. But if you'd like to learn to speak "everyday Australian" here's A Guide to Aussie Slang.]

BOOK 3: Shipwreck: A Saga of Sea Tragedy and Sunken Treasure

This book is an eyewitness account of 17th century Spanish priest, Diego Rivadeneira, who saw La Capitana, sink off Ecuador; and later he actually survived the sinking of the Maravillas sank in The Bahamas. Dave Horner, a diver and maritime historian, discovered the priest's diary in the Archivo General de Indias, Seville.

Scroll to Continue

Priceless treasure?

The answer is: 2 words - Spanish galleons!

Two immense Spanish galleons that carried substantial treasures belonging to King Philip IV of Spain. The ships carried treasure and precious human cargo as well.

The first ship sank off Ecuador and the second ship sank in the shallow waters of Little Bahama Bank. Some say that the sinking of the Maravillas sank the whole of Spain as well. But that's another story.

* One galleon, La Capitana, full name "Jesus Maria de la Limpia Concepcion" (Jesus Maria of the Clean [or Immaculate] Conception), had as its primary cargo a 400-pound, solid-gold statue of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. King Philip IV of Spain recovered most of his cargo.

* The cargo from the first galleon was reloaded on a second galleon, the Maravillas. The ship's full name was "Nuestra Senora de las Maravillas"; in English, "Our Lady of the Wonders". Some translate it "Our Lady of Miracles". Parts of the cargo have been retrieved but the statue of the Madonna has not yet been recovered. [As of Sep 2011]

Interesting Note

Edward Teach Commonly Known as Black Beard the Pirate

By Joseph Nicholls (fl. 1726–55).[1] Although James Basire (1730–1802) is attributed as the engraver based on the signature "J. Basire", unless he engraved the item at the age of 6, it is likely his father Isaac Basire (misreading of initial?) or ano

By Joseph Nicholls (fl. 1726–55).[1] Although James Basire (1730–1802) is attributed as the engraver based on the signature "J. Basire", unless he engraved the item at the age of 6, it is likely his father Isaac Basire (misreading of initial?) or ano

  • Famous Ghost Ships
    Ghost ships have sparked the imagination of many a sailor or landlubber for centuries. Read on and discover the stories of four such ghost ships: The Flying Dutchman, The Mary Celeste, The Octavius and Le Caleuche.
  • Pirates & Piracy
    Piracy is as old as travel by sea. Pirates harried the commerce of Phoenicia, the world's first maritime nation, and piracy persisted into the middle of the 19th century when it rapidly declined as a continuous menace, flaring up only occasionally th

© 2013 Treathyl FOX


Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on April 16, 2020:

@docandersen - One of my joys of watching documentaries about treasure hunts and shipwrecks was realizing they were filming in Florida the state where I was born. Such a cool history!

DocAndersen from US on April 16, 2020:

one of my guilty pleasures is watching the show about Oak Island Nova Scotia.

who after all doesn't want to find pirate booty!

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on April 19, 2016:

@nell-rose - Me too! I grew up in Florida and people were and are always hunting for lost treasure.

Nell Rose from England on April 19, 2016:

I have always wanted to go searching for wrecks! how fascinating would that be? great read!

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on March 04, 2015:

@Claudia Mathews - Glad you enjoyed it! :)

Claudia Mathews on March 04, 2015:

I found this Hub fascinating. Great article.

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on August 20, 2014:

@boutiqueshops - Oh yeah! No doubt. If I were going to look for shipwrecks, Florida AND Texas AND The Bahamas would be on my treasure hunt map. :) Thanks for visiting!

Sylvia from Corpus Christi, Texas on August 19, 2014:

I believe there are 1-2 Spanish shipwrecks along our coast here in South Texas. It's food for the imagination, isn't it?

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on May 31, 2014:

@Sandyspider - Thanks for stopping by. Happy Saturday! :)

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on May 31, 2014:

I love this type of history about ships.

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on May 26, 2014:

Thank you so much Jodah!!

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on May 26, 2014:

What an interesting hub. Ships at sea and shipwrecks is a subject that fascinates most of us, I know it does me. From Moby dick to the Perfect Storm, they are full of adventure. These books about true shipwrecks would be fascinating reading, as was this hub. Voted up.

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on March 03, 2014:

@Tolovaj - My husband used to work on a cargo ship. He thought it was pretty cool. Wasn't very adventurous. He just liked the fact that he could leave The Bahamas and visit Miami, Florida on a regular basis. That was enough excitement for him! Thanks for stopping by. :)

Tolovaj on March 02, 2014:

Ships have such unbeatable romantic charge, being a sailor (or even a pirate!) is a dream of many boys and I think this dream stays alive in many cases when a boy grows up.

I enjoyed in this mini time travel, thanks:)

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on December 11, 2013:

Monis Mas - Thanks for visiting and double thanks for following me. I'll try not to disappoint you with the HUBs I publish.

Agnes on December 11, 2013:

Very well researched hub - these stories are fascinating!

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on November 13, 2013:

kidscrafts - Thanks for visiting!

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on November 13, 2013:

Very interesting hub, CMoneySpinner! It's unbelievable sometimes what people can discover in shipwrecks so long after the fact and try to guess who was on the ship, what they were transporting, etc. History under the sea!

Thank you for sharing!

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on October 31, 2013:

@Mike Robbers - Glad you enjoyed it! It's good to see you!

Mike Robbers from London on October 31, 2013:

A very interesting hub and subject! Enjoyed the read.

Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on October 10, 2013:

@Eiddwen - Thanks for the compliment. Looking forward to reading some of your HUBs as well.

Eiddwen from Wales on October 10, 2013:

A very interesting hub ad I look forward to many more by you.


Treathyl FOX (author) from Austin, Texas on October 09, 2013:

@billybuc and @ologsinquito - Thank you both for stopping by and leaving a comment. Took me a while to figure out what my 9th HUB would be. Now I have to work on Number 10 because having that odd number published HUBs is gonna drive me nuts!! :)

They say people have numbers. Must be true because there are certain numbers that drive me up the wall!!! I can't explain it. (O.o)

ologsinquito from USA on October 09, 2013:

Hi, you have such an amazing grasp of history. The book Shipwreck looks so interesting. Imagine a 400 pound solid gold statue. I'm glad it was recovered.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 09, 2013:

Wasn't the Life of Pi a beautiful movie? What a visual pleasure that was.

I can see why shipwreck hunters love what they do...I think it would be fascinating to go in search of sunken treasure and secrets.

I'm rambling...thanks for a very interesting article.

Related Articles