It’s not unusual for ships to sink in the vastness of the ocean seas, be it because of strong winds and storms, due to enemy attacks, or probably due to some mechanical issues. They were either retrieved and taken back to the shipyards either for repairs or for scraps. Other times they were left at the bottom of the sea forever. Then, there were those that just disappeared and were nowhere to be found even after extensive search and rescue operations.  In fact, it is more common for a large ship to be lost without a trace than a large aircraft.  This has everything to do with the ocean being ridiculously deep in most places and the fact that passenger airliners minimize their flight time over water. In contrast, ships can only minimize their sailing distance from the shore.

Could Davy Jones have taken them and locked them away in his locker? Was it perhaps the Bermuda Triangle creatures? We may never know. Here are three vessels that mysteriously disappeared and have never been found despite decades-long efforts to find them using ever-advancing technology that keeps coming up with nothing.

German Submarine U-47

U-47 was Nazi Germany’s Type VIIB U-boat used during World War II. On December 17, 1938, she went into service under German U-boat commander Gunther Prien. U-47’s career and performance were excellent in terms of sinking enemy vessels. She was able to bring down 31 enemy vessels, one of which was the British battleship HMS Royal Oak. She managed to leave significant damages on nine more.

The crew of U-47 taking the salute from the crew of the Gneisenau-class battleship Scharnhorst on its return from Scapa Flow in October 1939. (Wikipedia)

On February 20, 1941, U-47 departed Lorient on her tenth and last patrol for a mission off the coast of Ireland. It was believed to have been sunk by the British destroyer HMS Wolverine in the west of Ireland, along with HMS Verity. HMS Wolverine had made an attack on a submarine after U-47’s last torpedo attack on the Whale Factory ship Terje Viken.

Other possible reasons for her disappearance were mines, mechanical failure, her own torpedoes, or some other unclaimed attack. Neither the boat nor her 45 crew of officers was ever found despite the approximate location of her sinking being known. All were presumed to have died.

HMS Sappho

HMS Sappho was a sailing vessel of the Royal Navy. It gained popularity and attention for causing a diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom and the United States over the slave trade after the crew led by Commander Fairfax Moresby seized the American barque Panchita at Porto de Lenha on the Congo River on May 9, 1857.

HMS Ringdove, a sister-ship to HMS Sappho.
HMS Ringdove, a sister-ship to HMS Sappho. (Wikipedia)

Commander Moresby was criticized for his handling of the Panchita-Sappho incident and was ordered to proceed to the Australian Station. He obliged. On January 8, 1858, HMS Sappho sailed from the Cape of Good Hope but never reached Sydney. Now, since Sydney was not expecting her arrival, her non-appearance caused no panic or any sort of concern until late in that year. It was not until October that same year that Admiral W. Loring received reports that Saphho had been seen on February 18 by the crew of the schooner Yarrow off Cape Bridgewater in Victoria, at the western entrance to the Bass Strait. A number of vessels, including HMS Elk and HMVS Victoria, failed to find any remnants of the missing HMS Sappho.

In late 1858, rumors started circulating in England that the vessel had been wrecked on an Australian coast and that those who managed to survive had been rescued while Moresby had gone lunatic. None of those rumors were true.


København was a huge military training vessel built by the British for the Danish Navy. It was a five-masted barque and was the largest sailing ship when it was built, with a prime purpose training young naval cadets.

Kobenhavn (ship) (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

On December 21, 1928, the ship departed from Norresundby in Vendsyssel, headed to Buenos Aires on its tenth voyage. Aboard was captain Hans Andersen and about 75 souls, including 26 crew and 45 cadets. Its purpose was to unload a shipload of chalk and bagged cement, take on another load of cargo, head to Melbourne, and then bring a cargo of Australian wheat back to Europe.

She arrived in Buenos Aires on November 17 and unloaded the cargo as planned. The departure was delayed due to some issues with paying commissions, but it sailed off on December 14, when Andersen decided to still head to Australia without a cargo. The last radio message from the ship was on December 22, saying “all is well.” København was officially announced missing on January 1, 1930, after a lengthy search and rescue mission. Despite its size, nothing of her was ever found, and no one really knew what happened to the ship, except for those souls that went down with her.