After Hurricane Isaac uncovered a shipwreck apparently hidden beneath the sands of an Alabama beach, curious locals learned an unexpected lesson in maritime history while visiting the photogenic hull. Shipwrecks, it seem, exert a very specific type of gravity. They are like train wrecks caught mid-horror and, no, people can't look away.
The best example of this phenomenon may well be the wreck of the Salem Express, which sits in the Red Sea. The wreck was recent enough -- the ship went down in 1991 -- that no one struggles to remember the lives that were lost as the ferry sank into the sea after striking a reef, but the wreck is already a huge attraction for divers, who can still see the luggage that still sits in the hull.
The Salem Express is part of an unusual group of shipwrecks because, unlike the Titanic or the Andrea Doria, it can be visited by tourists. While many of the world's wrecks sit in water too deep to dive, the Express is a long held breath away from the surface. As such it makes our list of the world's most interesting accessible wrecks.
These boats, which sit above and below the water all over the world, can provide travelers with the same glimpse the folks in Alabama got after Isaac, a view into the gullet of the ocean.
Sunk by bombers during WWII, the Thistlegorm is the Red Sea's most famous wreck. Divers explore the massive boat and play with the <a href="http://www.ssthistlegorm.com/">tanks, motorcycles and cars that were aboard when it sank.</a>
The Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast, the sandy strip of coastline running from Namibia's north into southern Angola, was named for the quantity of whale and sea bones in the dunes and for the skeletal shipwrecks that dot the seemingly endless beach.
The Rhone is famous for being a <a href="http://www.divebvi.com/dive-sites/rms-rhone/">stunningly intact schooner wreck</a> and for being the inspiration for the famous poem <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c03sWpt62vw">Diving Into The Wreck by Adrienne Rich</a>.
The Northern Light
The Northern Light, a Great Lakes Freighter, sits in 190 feet of water off Key Largo, Florida, where it serves as a magnet for ocean life and experienced divers.
Truk Lagoon, located in the South Pacific archipelago, may boast the densest shipwreck field in the world. Sunk during WWII by American bombs, the <a href="http://www.truk-lagoon.com/">Fujisan Maru is the most famous wreck of the lot.</a>
The Arbutus sits in shallow, clear water near the Dry Tortugas, a chain of islands that is now a national park and <a href="http://www.nps.gov/drto/index.htm">has always been the inspiration for piratical legends</a>.
This shipwreck off of Hawaii remains a bit of a mystery. A Japanese fishing vessel, the boat that is now referred to as "Oshima" never sent out of distress signal and <a href="http://www.papahanaumokuakea.gov/maritime/oshima.html">was never identified.</a>
The Maheno, which sits on the broad sandy beach of Australia's Fraser Island, is a frequently photographed landmark for travelers to the area. The boat washed up on shore after being <a href="http://tourfraserisland.com.au/shipwreck.php">struck by a cyclone</a>.
The Costa Concordia
It took about a week for the wreck of the Costa Concordia, the most recently destroyed ship on this list, to attract tourists to the shores near Isola del Giglio in Tuscany.
The Salem Express
A former ferry that operated between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the Salem Express sunk into the Red Sea in 1991 after hitting a reef. Though many people died in the wreck, the site <a href="http://aquaviews.net/scuba-dive-destinations/egypts-controversial-wreck-dive-salem-express/">retains popularity with divers. </a>