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World Discoverer: An eerie half-sunken beauty on the Nggela Islands

Bojan Ivanov
Left: MS World Discoverer in Salaverry. Photo Credit: Aah-Yeah, CC BY 2.0. Right: World Discoverer wreck off Guadalcanal. Photo Credit: Philjones828, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Since 2000, an eerie and impressive half-sunken ship has been abandoned in Roderick Bay of the Nggela Islands and has become a popular stopping point for travelers in recent years.

World Discoverer wreck off Guadalcanal. Photo Credit: Philjones828, CC BY-SA 3.0 

World Discoverer wreck off Guadalcanal. Photo Credit: Philjones828, CC BY-SA 3.0 

The ship is called the MS World Discoverer and was built by German shipbuilding company Schichau Unterweser, headquartered in Bremerhaven. The ship was originally built as BEWA Discoverer and was sold to BEWA Cruises of Denmark in 1974.

World Discoverer in 1978. Photo Credit: Jens Bludau, CC BY-SA 4.0

World Discoverer in 1978. Photo Credit: Jens Bludau, CC BY-SA 4.0

The MS World Discoverer has had many names over the years, all associated with its primary purpose: expedition cruises. Sold to Adventure Cruises two years after its construction, the ship was renamed World Discoverer and became a long-term charter to Society Expeditions. However, Society Expeditions gained a new owner who renamed the company Society Expedition Cruises, situated in Seattle and Germany.

Ship World Discoverer Australia, 1990. Photo Credit: Monster4711, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ship World Discoverer Australia, 1990. Photo Credit: Monster4711, CC BY-SA 3.0

Although he changed the name of the company, the new owner wanted to keep the name of the German ship and registered the ship in Liberia under the name World Discoverer.

MS World Discoverer in Salaverry. Photo Credit: Aah-Yeah, CC BY 2.0

MS World Discoverer in Salaverry. Photo Credit: Aah-Yeah, CC BY 2.0

The Discoverer was a well-equipped ship fitted with an observation lounge, library, small fitness center and swimming pool, a medical center, and a lecture hall. Over the years, she visited many different places.

World Discoverer anchored in Hakahau Bay, Ua Pou, Marquesas. Photo Credit: Angela K. Kepler

World Discoverer anchored in Hakahau Bay, Ua Pou, Marquesas. Photo Credit: Angela K. Kepler

Her cruising grounds included Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, the South Pacific Islands, Alaska, the Russian border around the Bering Sea, and the Falkland Islands – the ship’s rich history of expedition tours was more than apparent.

The ship World Discoverer docked in Palmyra, Line Islands. Photo Credit: Angela K. Kepler

The ship World Discoverer docked in Palmyra, Line Islands. Photo Credit: Angela K. Kepler

The Discoverer had a cruising range of 8,100 miles allowing the ship to travel the Northwest Passage, led by captain Oliver Kruess with a small team of experienced expedition leaders to answer tourists’ questions about the region, the ice floes, their movements, and the ship’s destinations.

MS World Discoverer, Chile. Photo Credit: Aah-Yeah, CC BY 2.0 

MS World Discoverer, Chile. Photo Credit: Aah-Yeah, CC BY 2.0 

Allowed to land on various shorelines and observe the area and its wildlife, passengers took two to three shore expeditions daily led by historians, geologists, marine biologists, and naturalists.

MS World Discoverer in Peru. Photo Credit: Aah-Yeah, CC BY 2.0 

MS World Discoverer in Peru. Photo Credit: Aah-Yeah, CC BY 2.0 

World Discoverer was a home to many diverse expedition groups until misfortune ended its seafaring career for good. The shipwreck that brought an end to her expeditions occurred on April 30th, 2000, in Roderick Bay, after the ship struck a rock on a reef in the Sandfly Passage. While everyone on board was safely evacuated, the captain of the ship had no other choice than to leave his beloved vessel to sink.

View across the lagoon of the Gambier Islands, French Polynesia, with World Discoverer in the center. Photo Credit: Makemake, CC BY-SA 3.0

View across the lagoon of the Gambier Islands, French Polynesia, with World Discoverer in the center. Photo Credit: Makemake, CC BY-SA 3.0

After an underwater survey of the ship, the World Discoverer was proclaimed a ‘constructive loss’. Four years after the wreck, the Society Expedition was declared bankrupt.

Toronto Inner Harbour. Photo Credit: Robert Taylor, CC BY 2.0

Toronto Inner Harbour. Photo Credit: Robert Taylor, CC BY 2.0

Several salvage companies have attempted to retrieve the ship over the years, but the damage from tidal activity and the equipment removal the World Discoverer suffered during a local civil war made it an untenable proposition. Years after the shipwreck, no pollutant spills, such as oil or petroleum, were reported from the locals.

View from Pitcairn Island. Photo Credit: Angela K. Kepler

View from Pitcairn Island. Photo Credit: Angela K. Kepler

Despite its unfortunate fate, due to the unusual position of the ship, many tourists come to admire the half-sunken beauty. Cruise ship tours pass the ship and allow tourists to take a closer look at the portion of the magnificent vessel visible above the water. It is even possible to see the ship from above with Google Maps’ Satellite view.

World Discoverer anchored in South Georgia. Photo Credit: Shakleton2, CC BY-SA 3.0

World Discoverer anchored in South Georgia. Photo Credit: Shakleton2, CC BY-SA 3.0

Although what happened to the cruise ship was a great loss, the sight of the half-submerged vessel with its rusting and decaying surface is really quite impressive.

World Discoverer at the port in Ua Pou, in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. Photo Credit: Makemake, CC BY-SA 3.0

World Discoverer at the port in Ua Pou, in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. Photo Credit: Makemake, CC BY-SA 3.0

Abandoned since 2000, the ship is slowly rusting away while people admire its former splendor and wait for it to finally slip away to the bottom of the ocean.