Failed Expeditions From Around The World

By Aaron Love 10 months ago

Titan Submarine, 2023

Image Source: Reddit
You were probably expecting to see this expedition feature on this list, especially as it is the most recent failure to have hit the headlines; everyone knew about this one as it had pretty much taken over the news. 5 people unfortunately lost their lives as a result of some technical failures, design problems and terrible navigational problems. I mean, before sending people to the bottom of the ocean you'd think they'd have been able to create a hub that wouldn't collapse under the pressure. It was even steered with a games controller. Jesus.

Titanic, 1912

Image Source: Reddit
Although the Titanic was meant to be one of the greatest cruisers to have ever sailed the seas at the time around 1912, it was set up for disaster before it had even set sail for the US in the first place. A number of issues obviously arose after the ship collided with an Iceberg during its trip and it's poor build meant that it began flooding much easier than a massive cruise ship should have. Besides this, not having enough lifeboats and ignoring iceberg warnings caused around 1500 people to lose their lives during the ships failed trip.

The Apollo 1 Disaster, 1967

Image Source: Reddit
Before man managed to make it to the moon (or so they say!) humans had a number of failed efforts to make it to space including the disastrous Apollo 1 mission back in 1967, 2 years before Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong took the first human steps on the moon. During a test launch around a month before the actual launch date, even though there was no fuel on board, an electrical fire broke out and the three astronauts inside ended up being burned alive as the hatch was unable to be opened from the outside.

The Soyuz 1 Disaster, 1967

Image Source: Reddit
Just 3 months after the Apollo 1 disaster, the Soviets had there very own disaster during the space race themselves. In fact, they actually suffered the first human fatality as a result of space flight after Vladimir Komarov crashed to earth following issues in orbit. There wasn't enough energy being provided to the space craft and so the mission was aborted. Unfortunately however, the spacecrafts parachutes didn't deploy and the entire craft plummeted to earth violently leaving absolutely no chance for survival.

The Challenger Explosion, 1986

Image Source: Reddit
Continuing the theme of failed space expeditions, one of the most recognised space failure was the US' Challenger space shuttle disaster which was shown on TV around the world during 1986. Just over a minute after the space craft had launched it broke apart and ended up crashing down in to the Atlantic Ocean where all 7 astronauts were found to have died. It turns out that NASA had made a massive error in allowing the ship to launch as they were already aware cold temperatures could damage the shuttle.

Mount Everest Disaster, 1996

Image Source: Reddit
One of the more recent expeditions to have failed on this list was the period of 2 days between the 10th and 11th of May 1996 when a huge group of people ended up losing their lives as they attempted to reach the summit of the largest mountain on Earth. Climbing Everest is dangerous as it is, but all of the people in the image above ended up being caught in a blizzard atop the mountain. The worst part about the disaster, besides the deaths, is that they all still remain on the mountain through to this day.

Amelia Earhart's Last Flight, 1937

Image Source: Reddit
Amelia Earhart became a worldwide name following her disappearance back in 1937, although she had already broken countless records and had already achieved fame before her fatal trip. The thing was, she wasn't bothered about being famous, she just wanted to keep flying and doing the thing she loved the most. She set off in 1937, alongside her co-pilot Fred Noonan on a trip around the entirety of the globe. Somewhere along the journey, around New Guinea they lost all contact and the famous plane has still yet to be found to this day.

Laika The Dog, 1957

Image Source: Reddit
You're probably all aware of Laika the space dog, she has been idolised in pop culture history pretty much since the moment the soviets sent her up to space on the Sputnik 2 spacecraft back in 1957. The dog was the first living species sent to space and she actually survived for 6 days in space before the oxygen on the spacecraft ran out. Ultimately, she was part of the incredible space race that eventually saw humans reach space and eventually landed on the moon (or so they say if you're inclined to think that way!).

Alison Hargreaves, 1995

Image Source: Ertblog
Alison Hargreaves was one badass of a woman, she became infamous for climbing the North Face of the Eiger WHILST she was carrying her baby in her stomach. Yes, she went mountain climbing whilst she was 6 months pregnant and succeeded! Not just that, but she managed to hike up Mount Everest alone and without oxygen too! She made it her mission to climb the three largest mountains without aid, but upon her descent from K2 she was caught in a storm and unfortunately lost her life before she could reach her goal aged just 33.

Peng Jiamu, 1980

Image Source: Explorers Web
This is probably the most recent disappearance of a famous 'explorer' as in 1980 Peng Jiamu, a famous Chinese biologist disappeared out of nowhere during an expedition through the Chinese Lop Nor desert. Things had seemingly been going fine for the first week, but one morning, after leaving a note suggesting he was going out to get water, Peng never returned to his camp. Most scientist suggested it was very likely that he had been buried by a sandstorm during his walk around the desert in search for some water. Scary!

The Franklin Expedition, 1845,1846

Image Source: Reddit
The Franklin expedition set off in May of 1845 on the hunt to find the north-west passage, a supposed route that explorers had theorised must exist that would lead through both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The expedition was made up of two ships both titled under their royal names, the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus. Both of these ships left with more than 100 men between them, although as you might have expected not a single one of them managed to survive the trip. Both of the ships were found sunk at the bottom of the Queen Maud Gulf (Canada) within 2 years of one another between 2014 and 2016.

The Sea Dragon Expedition, 1939

Image Source: Memphis Magazine
Richard Halliburton, pictured above was already a well-known adventurer before he set off on the Sea Dragon expedition, having climbed Mount Olympus and swimming the entire length of the Panama Canal. He intended to sail a Chinese Junk ship (essentially a sail boat) across the Pacific Ocean all the way to San Francisco in an attempt to appear at the Golden Gate International Exposition. Trial runs showed the ship wasn't particularly strong but he still went ahead with the expedition, later losing all contact after entering typhoon weather.

The Polaris Expedition, 1871-1873

Image Source: Reddit
During this period of time there was a huge race on for people to become the first group to finally reach the North Pole, this had become THE place to get to as it would ensure you would become a household name at the time. Surprisingly, only one man actually lost their lives as a result of this failed expedition and it wasn't the cold or illness that got to him. Instead, its actually believed that he was poisoned by the other members of the group who didn't agree with how he was leading the group. They had to be rescued soon after they wrecked on the coast of Greenland. Great friends eh?

S.A. Andree Expedition, 1897

Image Source: Atlas Obscura
This is one of the weirdest and potentially most stupid attempts of an expedition to the North Pole as just before the turn of the century. Instead of taking a ship to the North Pole, Solomon Andree decided he would try and use his trusty Hydrogen Balloon to fly there alongside two of his friends. Although they managed to reach the arctic, they were unable to take the necessary items with them and they died within three weeks of their arrival. Scientists have claimed this probably had something to do with their poor equipment and potentially contracting diseases from the polar bears they had hunted and eaten.

The Donner Party, 1846

Image Source: NBC News
Back in 1846, George Donner and James Reed decided to set off to California in a wagon train in what resulted in one of the most tragic and worst planned trips to be featured in this list. 87 people originally set off as part of the expedition but by the end only 48 were left and 32 of those were children. They were all very much malnourished and suffered horrific psychological problems based on what they had witnessed. The group became trapped in snow, ran out of food and had to turn to cannibalism in order to survive the incident.

The Darien Scheme, 1690's

Image Source: BBC
Back in the 1690's, Scotland was going through a period of VERY poor economic struggles and so their governing rulers decided to hatch a (mis-thought) plan to try and increase their funds. They planned to start a whole new colony on the island of Panama DESPITE the fact that it was actually already owned and claimed by the Spanish Empire. They sent more than 1000 people away, most of which had no idea how to create a settlement, they had no fresh water, no sellable items and no food. Only 300 people managed to survive to return home!

The Jeannette Expedition, 1879-1881

Image Source: The Siberian Times
Following the failed Polaris expedition to the North Pole, nothing seemed to stop people continue trying to make the trip to the icy cap of our earth. Less than 7 years after Polaris failed the USS Jeanette also set off from the US in order to make the exact same journey. Although this crew didn't fall out with one another, they still failed to reach their final goal after their ship became trapped in ice. They didn't even manage to get back home, instead having to tow all of their equipment for over 500 miles towards Siberia before they found human life! Unfortunately 20 men died during their travels.

Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-1914

Image Source: Reddit
You've probably heard of Robert Scott's trip to the North Pole in 1910 (we'll get to him next) , the captain of the Australasian expedition was invited to join them but chose instead to complete his own trip. Although the trip originally seemed to be going (somewhat) swimmingly, it eventually crumbled. Douglas Mawson travelled more than 100 miles away from his camp, pulled by a dog sled with two of his fellow explorers. Unfortunately, one of them fell down a crevasse along with most of their food (and the sled) and they were forced to walk (without food) for 100 miles to get back to camp. He returned almost a month later in horrific health!

The Terra Nova Expedition, 1910

Image Source: Reddit
Essentially every single part of this expedition failed massively, Robert Scott basically screwed himself and his crew before they had even set off for the South Pole back in 1910. He chose to use ponies instead of dogs because they were 'grander', ( all the ponies died VERY quickly) he used motorised sledges invented by one man, but then chose to leave him at home (they broke and no one knew how to fix them). He also took one extra man than he had planned for, meaning they never had enough food either! All members of the trip died, unsurprisingly, 2 years after they first set off.

The Narvaez Expedition, 1527

                  Image Source: Reddit
Of the 600 men to set sail as part of the Narvaez expedition, the man above, Cabeza De Vaca was the single survivor and he basically lived a real life movie! They attempted to sail to what we now know as America but ended up shipwrecking around the north of Florida. They continued to march through the land aimlessly fighting and wasting their lives in battles against the natives and once they tried to escape found themselves wrecked in yet another storm. Cabeza managed to survive both shipwrecks and then trekked on foot for more than 7 years towards Mexico, all whilst being enslaved along the way.

The Cambyses Army, 524 BC

We're going back a long way for this expedition, all the way back to the initial Persian Empire. Back then, Cambyses II decided to send an ungodly amount of troops into the Egyptian Desert, all for the sake of trying to destroy something known as the Oracle of Ammon, the problem was they actually didn't know where this was or if it even existed. None of them were ever seen again, or so historical documents have suggested, but a MASSIVE human grave was found in the supposed area very recently back in 2009. I wonder if that really is them?

The City Of Z, 1925

                                 Image Source: Reddit
Percy Fawcett created a name for himself as someone who had become obsessed with expeditions to South America based solely on a self-developed theory. The thing was, he never really had any evidence that this lost city he called simply 'Z' had ever truly existed. Himself, his son (pictured above) Jack and Jack's longtime friend set off from the UK in order to find this lost city, never to be seen again. His last communication came through a letter he had sent to his wife, claiming he was about to cross the Amazon River. No one knows what happened to them to this day!

The Abubakari Expedition, 1311

                                                              Image Source: Twitter
This is one of the craziest stories surrounding failed expeditions from around the world, as the ruler of the Malian Empire back in 1311 sent 200 ships off into the Atlantic out in to the ocean in order to discover anything! When one ship (JUST ONE) out of the 200 returned after being destoryed by adverse weather conditions you'd think he would be careful with future expeditions. But instead, he decided to send 2000 ships out next time and no one truly knows what happened to the men on board of those ships.

The Burke And Wills Expedition, 1860-1861

Image Source: Australia's Defining Moments
This time, we're heading out towards the Australian Outback where Robert O'Hara and William Wills attempted to travel from one end of Australia (Melbourne in the south) to the other (The Gulf of Carpentaria in the north). Unsurprisingly, this trip was a bit of a slog and the horrific weather mixed with the poor travel conditions meant they really struggled to complete the trip. Although they did reach their destination, it was the return trip where things really crumbled and only one man, John King returned alive.

The Brusilov Expedition, 1912

Image Source: The Siberian Times
The Brusilov expedition was yet another which occurred in an attempt to find the north-east passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, and yet another that didn't succeed in its mission. The ship ended up getting stuck in polar ice and ended up getting dragged around for over a year until Valerian Albanov and 12 others left the ship on foot in search of humanity. Only two of the 12, including Albanov made it to Northbrook Island alive where they were rescued by Georgy Sedov who was on his own separate arctic expedition.

The Corte-Real Brothers, 1501-1502

Image Source: VOCM
Strangely, the two Corte brothers both lost their lives, years apart whilst they tried to follow the same path as one another. Gaspar claimed 60 slaves during a trip to 'Newfoundland' and asked his brother Miguel to take them back. Gaspar however, never made it back to Portugal, with his ship sinking somewhere along the way. Miguel then returned years later in an attempt to save his brother (although hope was likely already lost) although he also never returned despite the other ships he set sail with landing safely.

Galaup Laperouse, 1785-1791

Image Source: Reddit
The strange thing about this expedition is that it was all seemingly going so swimmingly (maybe not the best choice of words) as King Louis XVI sent his trusted explorer to create an entire world map. And to be honest, for the time, he was doing a very good job! He had managed to comfortably travel the coastlines of much of Asia, America and Russia but during 1788 it all turned sour. After he left Australia with his crew, he was never seen again. 40 years later some parts of his ship were located all the way north in the Irish Sea!

Ferdinand Magellan, 1521

Image Source: Reddit
Ferdinand Magellan was the captain of the first ship to have circumnavigated the entire globe, so you might wonder why it is you're more likely to hear the name Francis Drake instead of Magellans? Well, that's because he actually never made it to the end of the journey, in fact, only 18 of the men who originally set out from Spain ever actually managed to make it back to their starting location. Crazily, those 18 survivors actually did complete the circumnavigation of earth but have since gone widely unrecognised.

The Tutankamun Expedition

Image Source: Reddit
So, I guess it depends on whether you believe of such things as curses as to whether you'll accept that this expedition was failed. I suppose, the group involved in the discovery of the tomb never really failed, I mean they did discover one of the most important findings in 'recent' ancient history! Supposedly though, those that took part in the expedition became cursed and a number of people, including Lord Carnavon, ended up suffering from illnesses and like Carnavon died soon after Tutankamun's tomb was opened up!

Joshua Slocum, 1909

Image Source: Wave Train
You might have heard of the name Captain Joshua Slocum before, as he was the first person to single-handedly sail across the world. In fact, he did so in a boat that was just 37ft long! That's absolutely tiny when you take in to account the usual size of worldwide voyages. It took him more than 3 years to complete his journey but he gained nationwide acclaim for his trip. Unsurprisingly though, as he features on this list that wasn't the end of his travels. He disappeared trying to travel solo from Massachusetts to South America without a trace.