PortandTerminal.com, September 11, 2019
In all, it’s estimated that, beneath Earth’s waters, there are 3 million shipwrecks. The oldest include 10,000-year-old canoes while the newest are 21st-century shipwrecks like the Indonesian bulker that sank 18 days ago and has yet to be found. It is estimated that less than one percent of the world’s shipwrecks have even been explored. Most never will be.
Mapping all 3 million shipwrecks estimated to be out there is an almost impossible task. Countries though with coasts have a vested interest in mapping the wrecks in the own waters for navigational safety reasons if for no other reason.
We also know that certain geographic locations and world events such as wars have tended to produce more than their fair share of shipwrecks and these have been painstakingly mapped out.
Certain danger points in the world that are prone to collect shipwrecks and many of these have been very well mapped out. For example, Canada’s Sable Island situated 190 miles (300 km) southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia has been a maritime hazard for centuries.
While the island is only about 14 miles (24 km) long, an estimated 350 vessels are believed to have fallen victim to the island’s sand bars. Thick fogs, treacherous currents, and the island’s location in the middle of a major transatlantic shipping route and rich fishing grounds account for the large number of wrecks
Coast Survey AWOIS
Coast Survey, an office of the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains information on more than 10,000 submerged wrecks and obstructions in U.S. coastal waters. Coast Survey maps these 10,000 shipwrecks to prevent a collision with other ships or submarines and adding to the number of wrecks that it tracks.
Coast Survey’s Automated Wreck and Obstruction Information System (AWOIS) contains information on over 10,000 submerged wrecks and obstructions in the coastal waters of the United States. Information includes latitude and longitude of each feature along with brief historic and descriptive details.
In addition to its use in planning hydrographic surveys, AWOIS is a valuable tool and information source for marine archaeologists and historians, fishermen, divers, salvage operators, and others in the marine community.
The value of shipwrecks
Part of the fascination with shipwrecks is treasure. There is an estimated $60 billion in sunken treasure around the world, just waiting at the bottom of the ocean by some estimates.
More important than treasure though is the information each shipwreck contains. Each wreck is a time capsule that gives us a glimpse into the past. Sometimes the very distant past. Information such as construction methods, trading patterns, technology and so on are all preserved to varying degrees each time a ship sinks.
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