Eerie, Beautiful Shipwreck Photos

Shipwrecks are terrifying catastrophes, but the underwater wreckage they leave behind has odd beauty.

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If you've seen the movie "Titanic," with its vivid depiction of the last moments of a giant ocean liner, you can imagine how terrifying the sinking of a ship can be. But when the wrecked remains of these vessels are discovered on the ocean bottom, they have an surprisingly serene, even beautiful appearance, almost as if the suffering they once created has been washed away. Here are a few of the stirring images captured of these wrecks by underwater explorers. Above, the

RMS Rhone

, a British ship that carried mail, passengers, horses and assorted cargo, sank during a hurricane off the coast of Salt Island in the British Virgin Islands in October 1967 -- ironically, shortly after it had taken on passengers from another ship that was deemed less sturdy. Only 23 of the 146 crew and original passengers on board survived.

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The anti-aircraft gun on the deck of the


, a British cargo ship, wasn't enough to protect it from German bombers in 1941. It sank near Ras Muhammaad in the Red Sea. Most of its crew, 32 men out of 41, managed to survive.

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The Zenobia

, a Swedish-built ferry, suffered a software problem with its computerized pumping system and took on excess water into its side ballast tanks, causing it to capsize and sink off Larnaca, Cyprus, in 1980. The crew survived, but the wreck has become known as the "Titanic of the Mediterranean" and is popular with divers.

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The Sweepstakes

, a 19th-century twin-masted schooner, was damaged after striking shoals in Lake Ontario in 1885. After it was determined that the ship was beyond repair, salvagers sank it in 20 feet of water, where it remains today as a curiosity.

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An unidentified submerged wreck of an unidentified ship lies off the island of Fiji in the Pacific. Four shipwrecks have occurred off the Vatoa reef between 1825 and 1973.

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USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vanderberg

, which originally was the

USS Harry Taylor

, was used to transport troops returning from World War II. It was sunk deliberately off Key West in 2009 to serve as an artificial reef.

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The HMS Titanic

sunk in 1912 after colliding with an iceberg in the north Atlantic. Only about 700 of the more than 2,200 people aboard survived. The bow, shown here, was the first part of the ship to sink.

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