shipwreck underwater with corals growing on it
Mandalay Wreck - Biscayne National Park

NPS Photo

Shipwrecks stand as a testament to both the power of the ocean and the tenacity of the human spirit that continues to challenge it, time and time again. While they may prompt in us a morbid fascination, shipwrecks are much more than records of lives lost. Sunken vessels give us a snapshot of a moment frozen in time. They hold pieces of the past – stories of individuals along with a wealth of relics that allow us a peek at the details of life in bygone days.

National parks along our coasts and Great Lakes preserve a large number of sunken vessels, from wooden hulled freighters to civil war era submarines. These include Spanish treasure ships from 1554 that were lost in a storm in what is now Padre Islands National Seashore, famous battleships such as the U.S.S. Arizona, sunk in Hawaii in 1941, British and colonial merchant vessels from the 1700s, and numerous freighters lost in the Great Lakes over a hundred year span, from the mid-1800s – mid-1900s. Many of these are accessible to divers, but even if you don’t choose to visit them in person, the information they yield to careful study by archeologists, provides us with a treasure trove of information about our history.

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    Last updated: January 25, 2018


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