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10 award-winning photos capture eerie underwater scenes of shipwrecks, rusted tanks, and a sunken passenger plane

A Bell AH-1F Cobra helicopter sitting on the Red Sea floor off the coast of Jordan, its windows illuminated by the photographer.
A Bell AH-1F Cobra helicopter sitting on the Red Sea floor off the coast of Jordan.Álvaro Herrero (Mekan)/UPY 2024
  • The Underwater Photographer of the Year competition has announced its winners for 2024.

  • One eerie category, "wrecks," showcases sunken ships, tanks, a plane, and a helicopter.

  • Here are 10 of the best shots from the competition and how they were taken.

The 2024 winners of the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition have been announced, showcasing submerged scenes as diverse as a diver among a graveyard of whale skeletons, a sunken helicopter, and kissing carp.

One category, "wrecks," speaks to a special fascination with submerged ships, tanks, and other military hardware that have come to rest on the ocean floor over hundreds of years.

In the photographs, military cargo, ship's wheels, and even passenger airline seats all remain eerily intact in their watery resting places.

While several of the photos come from Jordan's underwater military museum, where hardware is sunk on purpose as a diving attraction, others have more chilling stories stemming from wars and tragic accidents.

Here are 10 of the best "wrecks" shots, according to the judges.

Two sunken Chieftain tanks at the underwater military museum in Aqaba, Jordan.

Two Chieftain tanks on the sea floor at the Aqaba underwater military museum in Jordan, with two lights behind them. The image is a winner in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.
Two Chieftain tanks on the sea floor at the Aqaba, Jordan, underwater military museum.Martin Broen/UPY 2024

Two Chieftain tanks have been sunk among the reefs in the Red Sea in a tactical battle formation between 50 and 90 feet underwater.

The photographer, Martin Broen, said he wanted to "capture the symmetry of the Chieftain Tanks and strong presence of their 120mm guns."

The shot won in the 2024 "wrecks" category.

The wheel of this 19th-century wooden schooner is still intact at the bottom of Lake Huron.

Two divers explore the wreck of the wooden schooner Kyle Spangler in Lake Huron, illuminating its deck with their torches. The image is a winner in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.
"Illuminating the Past": Two divers explore the wreck of the schooner Kyle Spangler in Lake Huron.Becky Kagan Schott /UPY 2024

"This is an image I've been trying to perfect for almost six years," the photographer, Becky Kagan Schott, said.

The Kyle Spangler is a wooden two-masted schooner that sank in 1860 after crashing into another vessel, taking 15,000 bushels of wheat to the lake floor with it.

The wreck is considered one of the best-preserved schooners in the lake, according to Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

A split-second shot catches a shoal of fish resembling a boat's sail in Brazil.

A school of grey fish swarm in a shape resembling a boat sail over the sunken deck of the Virgo, a wreck near Recife, Brazil. The image is a winner in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.
"Set sail": A school of fish momentarily resembles a boat sail over the wreck of the Virgo, near Recife, Brazil.Fabi Fregonesi/UPY 2024

The photographer, Fabi Fregonesi, traveled to the Virgo, a boat sunk to create a dive site near Recife, Brazil, and caught this once-in-a-lifetime shot.

"Seconds after that, the fish formation changed," she said.

Rows of silt-covered motorbikes, never to be ridden, are seen inside a WW2 cargo steamship.

Two divers explore the interior of the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm in the Egyptian Red Sea, their torches illuminating rows of silt-covered motorcycles inside the ship. The image is a winner in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.
Two divers explore the interior of the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm in the Red Sea off Egypt.Alex Dawson/UPY 2024

The SS Thistlegorm was sunk off the coast of Egypt in 1941 while carrying a cargo of armored vehicles, motorbikes, artillery and ammunition, and railway equipment. It was spotted and bombed by German aircraft.

Much later, Jacques Cousteau tracked it down — more recently, the photographer Alex Dawson took this stunning image.

This photographer used a lamp to simulate an active engine in this plane under the sea.

A lone diver floats near a sunken Lockheed L-1011 TriStar aircraft in Aqaba, Jordan, partially viewed from the rear. A red light placed in the engine by the photographer simulates the glow of a powered engine. The image is a winner in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.
"Takeoff": A diver floats near a sunken Lockheed L-1011 TriStar aircraft in Aqaba.Christian Horras/UPY 2024

This passenger plane was — thankfully — scuttled on purpose in Aqaba. Still, it makes for an evocative image, thanks in part to the photographer's attempt to make it look as if the plane was about to take off.

"I placed a powerful light on a small tripod in the jet engine to create the effect of a powered engine," Christian Horras said.

An eerie view inside a sunken Lockheed passenger plane shows row upon row of unoccupied seats.

A lone diver floats at the end of a submerged Lockheed TriStar L-1011 passenger plane in the Red Sea off Jordan's coast, the rows of seats visible either side. The image is a winner in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.
A diver in a submerged Lockheed TriStar L-1011 passenger plane in the Red Sea off Jordan's coast.Álvaro Herrero (Mekan)/UPY 2024

The photographer, Álvaro Herrero, said he borrowed a cave-photography technique named the "butt light" to get this shot. That's when one diver swims behind another, hidden from the camera, shining a light to illuminate them from behind.

This freight ship crashed so hard it broke in half.

A diver floats past a massive break in the S.S. Norman in the Great Lakes, illuminating it with a torch. The image is a winner in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.
"Breaking Point": A diver floats past a massive break in the SS Norman in the Great Lakes.Becky Kagan Schott /UPY 2024

Here, Kagan Schott captured the catastrophic damage that a crash caused to the SS Norman, a bulk freighter that sank in 1895 in Lake Huron.

The ship "was hit so hard it cut the freighter in half, sending it into the depths and taking the lives of three crew members," she said.

Almost 200 feet underwater, this First World War battleship's gun barrels still seem ready for action.

A diver faces the camera with two gun barrels of the HMS Audacious, sunk off the coast of Ireland, in the foreground. The image is a winner in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.
"Simply Audacious": A diver with two gun barrels of HMS Audacious, sunk off the coast of Ireland.Kieran Hatton/UPY 2024

HMS Audacious, a super-dreadnought, fell victim to a sea mine in 1914 while exploding and then sinking off the coast of Northern Ireland.

The photographer, Kieran Hatton, said he caught this shot when he saw another diver in the area and quickly passed her his light while asking her to swim down the 13.5-inch gun barrels.

This photographer said he had just 20 minutes to get this stunning shot of a sunken helicopter.

A Bell AH-1F Cobra helicopter sitting on the Red Sea floor off the coast of Jordan, its windows illuminated by the photographer.
A Bell AH-1F Cobra helicopter sitting on the Red Sea floor off the coast of Jordan.Álvaro Herrero (Mekan)/UPY 2024

Herrero said he had just a few minutes to get this shot of a Bell AH-1F Cobra sunk off the coast of Jordan.

"This photograph was one of the most challenging I have taken," he said. In the short time they had left underwater, he decided to illuminate the windows and instructed the diver in the picture so that he could catch the light's reflection in his mask.

A world of anemones and marine worms hangs from this wreck in a Norwegian fjord.

The Parat, a wreck off the Norway coast, looms at the camera, covered in anemones. The image is a winner in the 2024 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards.
The Parat, a wreck off the coast of Norway.Guilhem Duprat/UPY 2024

This German rescue steamer, the Parat, was sunk by Allied forces off the Norwegian coast in 1944 as it attempted to come to the aid of a German freighter that had run aground.

Today, "the dive site looks very barren initially," the photographer Guilhem Duprat said. But once you get closer, "the wreck has become an oasis" covered in sea life, he said.

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