Famous Ships: Past And Present

Ships ahoy? More like ships, oh boy! With boating season under way, we thought we’d take a look at some of the most famous ships of all time.

USS Missouri (BB-63)

USS Missouri (BB-63)

This Iowa-class battleship—nicknamed Mighty Mo—has seen it all. Originally launched in 1944, it was the site of surrender for the Japanese at the end of the Second World War. It was also deployed in the Korean War and Operation Desert Storm. The USS Missouri is now a museum ship docked at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and is open to the public for guided tours.

The Fancy

The Fancy

Originally named Charles II, this 46-gun Spanish vessel was renamed the Fancy when first mate Henry Every of England organized a mutiny and became captain in 1693. Every was one of the most feared pirates of all time, commanding a fleet of five pirate ships that terrorized the Indian Ocean. The fate of the Fancy is unknown.

HMS Surprise

HMS Surprise

A recreation of HMS Rose, an 18th century 20-gun Royal Navy frigate, the HMS Surprise is perhaps best known for appearing in the Academy Award–winning film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. The vessel is currently harbored at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

 The Santa María

Santa Maria

The Santa María was Christopher Columbus’s flagship on his first voyage to America. A cargo ship, the Santa María was large and slow and carried 52 passengers when it departed from Palos de la Frontera, Spain, in 1492. The vessel’s mainmast is rumored to have housed a crow’s nest.

The Moshulu


Originally a German cargo ship built in 1904 and named Kurt, the Moshulu was confiscated by America during the First World War. She was eventually renamed by Edith Wilson, wife of former president Woodrow Wilson, as a tribute to her own Native American heritage (Moshulu means “one who fears nothing” in the Seneca language). The Moshulu is currently harbored in Philadelphia, where it opened as a restaurant in 1975.

The Black Pearl

Black Pearl

The only fictitious ship on our list, the Black Pearl was captained by pirate Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. In the first film the Black Pearl wasn’t a real ship at all—it was a set built on top of a barge—but an actual ship was constructed for the sequels, based on the design of a 109-foot-long vessel called Sunset.

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