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The 50 Greatest Shipwrecks (Hardback)

Maritime P&S History

By Richard M Jones
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 168
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399008006
Published: 6th October 2021

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When you think of a shipwreck, what image springs to mind? A tall sailing ship on the rocks, or perhaps the sinking Titanic surrounded by lifeboats? Historian Richard M. Jones has put together 50 stories of lost ships throughout history that are among the most important, infamous and in some cases tragic ships in the whole of history.

When did two liners collide and lead to one of the greatest rescues in history?

How did a Scotsman become an American hero against his own country?

Which warship sank with gold bullion on board during the Second World War?

This book tells the story of these fascinating cases plus many more, explores the largest shipwrecks, the treasure wrecks and the ones that are talked about still as the most famous. Starting at the tiny island of Alderney in 1592, we take a journey through history, through the First and Second World Wars, into the age of the passenger ferry and finally to the modern day migrant issues in the Mediterranean Sea.

Never before have these fifty wrecks come together in a book that really brings home to the reader just how many lost vessels there are, how deadly many can be and what this teaches us today about our own history.

This was quite the thinker of a book, indeed. As the author himself says, there are certainly plenty of shipwrecks to choose from so examining these particular 50 shipwrecks as opposed to others; well, I think he came up with a really good selection.

The stories about the tragedies are in chronological order and it is sobering reading about the ones that have occurred in my lifetime. The most recent one, about an unknown migrant ship, continues to play out on a daily basis somewhere in the world, although we rarely get to hear about them anymore, so common are they now. It is important to think that each life lost is a mother, father, brother, sister, spouse etc.

I thought the author did a really good job in summarising the events of each of these shipwrecks.

4.5 stars from me.

NetGalley, Monica Mac

Featured in: Double Disaster Book Launch with Island Links

Isle of Wight County Press

It is 5 stars from me for this one, it was well written, well-paced and had just the right amount of detail for me, a great and very interesting read – very highly recommended!

Read the full review here

Donna's Book Blog

A great book on some of the most interesting shipwrecks in history. A good read for all. The stories will hold your attention and are a quick read.

NetGalley, Ron Baumer

I was a little worried that packing the stories of 50 shipwrecks into a book of this size (168 pages - hardcover - apparently) would mean we basically got a list of shipwrecks with a short paragraph on each. Not so. We get all the information we need to spark interest in each and every one, plus some rather spectacular photos. "The 50 Greatest Shipwrecks" is a great starting point for anyone interested in the subject.

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


I added to my wish list thinking this would be an interesting read. It exceeded my expectations. I had no idea there were/are so many shipwrecks. The detail of the history with them have me hooked. I've become obsessed with shipwreck documentaries now! And I plan on reading more books about shipwrecks.

NetGalley, Loretta Runyon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A well researched book by Richard m Jones covering fifty shipwrecks. A very interesting read and each page is a delight in learning of these big ships as well as treasure ships.

NetGalley, Lional Jones

There are many shipwrecks that we read about in history. This book takes the top 50, and breaks them down - but you get so much more than just a light sketch over the history. The author dives into the background, giving as much information as is available - even talking about a few lesser known shipwrecks that have happened in the same area!

I absolutely loved this book! I enjoyed hearing about the different shipwrecks, the timelines that were given, and the affects that these wrecks had on the times that they happened in.

Read about the Titanic, Carpathia, Bismark, USS Arizona, Empress of Ireland, Edmund Fitzgerald, Mendi, and so many more!

NetGalley, Rebecca Hill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is absolutely fascinating, full of stories about ships, wrecks and treasure. It’s a brilliant mix of history and storytelling, perfect to dip and out of. A must for anyone with a interest in maritime history.

NetGalley, Rebecca B

This book was a fantastic overview of some of the more noteworthy shipwrecks from 1545-2015. The shipwrecks are each given a short chapter and the chapters are arranged in chronological order. I had heard of a handful of the wrecks prior to reading this book and was equally delighted with additional information to add to what I knew about those few wrecks, and new information about the wrecks that I was not aware of. Richard M. Jones does a great job of presenting a lot of factual information in a very digestible, coherent storyline. I especially appreciated the commentary at the end of several of the chapters that linked common elements in separate sinkings (such as RORO ferry design contributing to an instabilty and possible hull weaknesses in similar vessels contributing to wrecks that should not continue to occur regularly).

All in all, this is a fantastic book for reading a chapter or two per night before bed and would also make a great gift for any lover of nautical history.

NetGalley, Elmira Ponti

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am absolutely fascinated with ships, wrecks and the treasure they carried. This book itself is a gold mine of history and content. I enjoyed every page.

NetGalley, April Jernigan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book, I love the way that it took you through history too with the details of some of the disasters – I will admit that I am fan of any disaster and I am just intrigued by what happened, the causes and the impact after and whilst this book is not all disasters there is plenty of variety included.

I like the broad range of shipwrecks and the period cover from the sinking of the Mary Rose in 1545 through to the horrifically sad sinking of a migrant boat in 2015. The book covers the subjects very delicately too as ultimately the majority of the boats and ships looked at had a loss of life.

I read the book over a couple of days and it was a great one with the short and punchy length of the chapters – I could easily see a second book in the series as I think The White Ship could easily be included as that was a shipwreck that changed the course of English history – a great book to give so much food for thought and one that made me look up some of the incidents in more detail. A great introduction.

It is 5 stars from me for this one, it was well written, well-paced and had just the right amount of detail for me, a great and very interesting read – very highly recommended!

NetGalley, Donna Maguire

I have been fascinated by this subject for a long time and was excited to read a book containing this material. Written with just the perfect amount of information, it will not bog you down with boring details. Some of the ships you will have heard of but many will be new. You may even find yourself looking up more info on some. Includes some pictures.

Historical and interesting read.

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It's just a fact that if you write a book about ship wrecks, then I will read it!
Shipwrecks make for some fascinating reading, and for two days,I read nothing else!
So many inspiring stories. Most are incredibly sad. You also discover that in some cases, "very few" the Captain does not go down with the ship! Matter of fact, some are the first off.
I appreciate how the author did some digging to find some of these stories.
Now, how about ships that are wrecked in lost and lonely places?

NetGalley, Lisa Noell

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I’ve always been very interested in learning about different shipwrecks. This book was everything that I was looking for. For each ship, the author gave some history of its building and life (if it were known), and then the history of the sinking and what came after. I loved the photos at the end of some of the wrecks. This was a wonderful book!

NetGalley, Cari-Leigh Williams

About Richard M Jones

Richard M. Jones is a historian specialising in lost ships and forgotten disasters. He has published over a dozen books and placed six memorial plaques to help remember these events. Dividing his time between Bridlington and Southampton, he always has many more projects in the pipeline and is a keen traveller and history detective.

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