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Shipwreck

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A shipwreck is what remains of a ship that has wrecked, either sunk or beached. Whatever the cause, a sunken ship or a wrecked ship is a physical example of the event
Shipwreck (accident)
A shipwreck can refer to a wrecked ship or to the event that caused the wreck, such as the striking of something that causes the ship to sink, the stranding of the ship on rocks, land or shoal, or the destruction of the ship at sea by violent weather...

: this explains why the two concepts are often overlapping in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

.

The United Nations estimates that there are more than 3 million shipwrecks on the ocean floor.

Types of shipwrecks



Historic wrecks are attractive to maritime archaeologist
Maritime archaeology
Maritime archaeology is a discipline within archaeology as a whole that specifically studies human interaction with the sea, lakes and rivers through the study of associated physical remains, be they vessels, shore side facilities, port-related structures, cargoes, human remains and submerged...

s because they preserve historical information: for example, studying the wreck of Mary Rose
Mary Rose
The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a...

 revealed information about seafaring, warfare and life in the 16th century. Military wrecks that were caused by a skirmish at sea are studied to find details about the historic event and reveal much about the battle that occurred. Discoveries of treasure ships, often from the period of European colonisation
Colonisation
Colonization occurs whenever any one or more species populate an area. The term, which is derived from the Latin colere, "to inhabit, cultivate, frequent, practice, tend, guard, respect", originally related to humans. However, 19th century biogeographers dominated the term to describe the...

, which sank in remote places, leaving few living witnesses, such as the Batavia
Batavia (ship)
Batavia was a ship of the Dutch East India Company . It was built in Amsterdam in 1628, and armed with 24 cast iron cannons and a number of bronze guns. Batavia was shipwrecked on her maiden voyage, and was made famous by the subsequent mutiny and massacre that took place among the survivors...

, do occur but only very infrequently.

Some contemporary wrecks, such as the Prestige
Prestige oil spill
The Prestige oil spill was an oil spill off the coast of Galicia caused by the sinking of an oil tanker in 2002. The spill polluted thousands of kilometers of coastline and more than one thousand beaches on the Spanish, French and Portuguese coast, as well as causing great harm to the local fishing...

 or Erika
Erika (tanker)
Erika was the name of a tanker built in 1975 and last chartered by Total-Fina-Elf. She sank off the coast of France in 1999, causing a major environmental disaster.- Background :Erika was one of eight sister ships built in Japan...

, are of interest primarily because of the potential harm to the environment. Other contemporary wrecks are scuttled in order to spur reef growth, such as Adolphus Busch and the Ocean Freeze. Wrecks like Adolphus Busch and many historic wrecks such as are of interest to recreational divers
Recreational diving
Recreational diving or sport diving is a type of diving that uses SCUBA equipment for the purpose of leisure and enjoyment. In some diving circles, the term "recreational diving" is used in contradistinction to "technical diving", a more demanding aspect of the sport which requires greater levels...

 who enjoy diving shipwrecks because they are often interesting to explore, provide large habitats for many types of marine life and have an interesting history.

Very few shipwrecks are famous catastrophes like the wrecks of the , Britannic
HMHS Britannic
HMHS Britannic was the third and largest of the White Star Line. She was the sister ship of and , and was intended to enter service as a transatlantic passenger liner. She was launched just before the start of the First World War and was laid up at her builders in Belfast for many months before...

, or Estonia. There are also thousands of wrecks that were not lost at sea but have been abandoned or sunk. These are typically smaller vessels such as fishing vessels. These vessels can provide an interesting recreational dive
Scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....

 but are usually of little interest to historians. They may pose a hazard to navigation and may be removed by port authorities
Port authority
In Canada and the United States a port authority is a governmental or quasi-governmental public authority for a special-purpose district usually formed by a legislative body to operate ports and other transportation infrastructure.Port authorities are usually governed by boards or...

. These vessels are sometimes referred to as abandoned or derelicts.. There are more than 3 million wrecks on the ocean floor, the United Nations estimates.

Causes



Poor design, improperly stowed cargo
Cargo
Cargo is goods or produce transported, generally for commercial gain, by ship, aircraft, train, van or truck. In modern times, containers are used in most intermodal long-haul cargo transport.-Marine:...

, navigation and other human errors leading to collisions (with another ship, the shoreline, an iceberg, etc.), bad weather, fire
Fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

, and other causes can lead to accidental sinkings. Intentional reasons for sinking a ship include forming an artificial reef
Artificial reef
An artificial reef is a human-made underwater structure, typically built to promote marine life in areas with a generally featureless bottom, control erosion, block ship passage, or improve surfing....

; due to war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

fare, piracy
Piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

, mutiny
Mutiny
Mutiny is a conspiracy among members of a group of similarly situated individuals to openly oppose, change or overthrow an authority to which they are subject...

 or sabotage
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

; as part of target practice
Target practice
Target practice refers to any exercise in which projectiles are fired at a specified target, usually to improve the aim of the person or persons firing the weapon....

; or to remove a menace to navigation.

State of preservation



Many factors determine the state of preservation of a wreck:
  • the ship's construction materials
  • the wreck becoming covered in sand or silt
  • the salinity
    Salinity
    Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water. It is a general term used to describe the levels of different salts such as sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium sulfates, and bicarbonates...

     of the water the wreck is in
  • the level of destruction involved in the ship's loss
  • whether the components or cargo
    Cargo
    Cargo is goods or produce transported, generally for commercial gain, by ship, aircraft, train, van or truck. In modern times, containers are used in most intermodal long-haul cargo transport.-Marine:...

     of the wreck were salvage
    Marine salvage
    Marine salvage is the process of rescuing a ship, its cargo, or other property from peril. Salvage encompasses rescue towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship...

    d
  • whether the wreck was demolished to clear a navigable channel
  • the depth of water at the wreck site
  • the strength of tidal
    Tide
    Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun and the rotation of the Earth....

     currents or wave action at the wreck site
  • the exposure to surface weather conditions at the wreck site
  • the presence of marine animals that consume the ship's fabric
  • temperature
  • the acidity (or pH
    PH
    In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

    ), and other chemical characteristics of the water at the site


The above mentioned, especially the stratification (silt/sand sediments piled up on the shipwrecks) and the damages caused by marine creatures is better described as "stratification and contamination" of shipwrecks. The stratification not only creates another challenge for marine archaeology but also a challenge to its primary state, the state that it had when it sank.

Stratification includes several different types of sand and/or silt, as well as tumulus and encrustations. In addition to these, these "sediments" are tightly linked to the type of currents, depth, and the type of water (salinity, pH, etc.), which implies any chemical reactions that would lead to affecting the hypothetical/possible main cargo (such as wine, olive oil, spices, etc.).

Besides this geological phenomenon, wrecks also face the damage of marine creatures that create a home out of them; primarily being octopuses and crustaceans. These creatures affect the primary state because they move, or break, any parts of the shipwreck that are in their way, thereby affecting the original condition of amphorae, for example, or any other hollow places. Finally, in addition to the slight or severe destruction marine animals can create, there are also "external" contaminants, such as modern-day commodities, or contemporary pollution in bodies of water, that as well severely affect shipwrecks by changing the chemical structures, or even destroying or devastating even more of what is left of a specific ship.

All the above offers great challenges to the marine archaeologist when attempting to bind the pieces of a certain shipwreck together. However and despite these challenges, even if the information retrieved does not appear to be sufficient, or a poor preservation is achieved, authors like J.A. Parker, claim that it is the historical value of the shipwreck that counts, as well as any slight piece of information and/or evidence that is acquired.

Construction materials


Exposed wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

en components decay quickly. Often the only wooden parts of ships that remain after a century are those that were buried in silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

 or sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

 soon after the sinking. An example of this is the Mary Rose
Mary Rose
The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a...

.

Steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 and iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, depending on their thickness, may retain the ship's structure for decades. As corrosion
Corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

 takes place, sometimes helped by tides and weather, the structure collapses. Thick ferrous objects like cannon
Cannon
A cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or other usually explosive-based propellents to launch a projectile. Cannon vary in caliber, range, mobility, rate of fire, angle of fire, and firepower; different forms of cannon combine and balance these attributes in varying degrees,...

s, steam
Steam
Steam is the technical term for water vapor, the gaseous phase of water, which is formed when water boils. In common language it is often used to refer to the visible mist of water droplets formed as this water vapor condenses in the presence of cooler air...

 boiler
Boiler
A boiler is a closed vessel in which water or other fluid is heated. The heated or vaporized fluid exits the boiler for use in various processes or heating applications.-Materials:...

s or the pressure vessel
Pressure vessel
A pressure vessel is a closed container designed to hold gases or liquids at a pressure substantially different from the ambient pressure.The pressure differential is dangerous and many fatal accidents have occurred in the history of their development and operation. Consequently, their design,...

 of a submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

 often survive well underwater in spite of corrosion.

Propeller
Propeller
A propeller is a type of fan that transmits power by converting rotational motion into thrust. A pressure difference is produced between the forward and rear surfaces of the airfoil-shaped blade, and a fluid is accelerated behind the blade. Propeller dynamics can be modeled by both Bernoulli's...

s, condenser
Condenser (heat transfer)
In systems involving heat transfer, a condenser is a device or unit used to condense a substance from its gaseous to its liquid state, typically by cooling it. In so doing, the latent heat is given up by the substance, and will transfer to the condenser coolant...

s, hinge
Hinge
A hinge is a type of bearing that connects two solid objects, typically allowing only a limited angle of rotation between them. Two objects connected by an ideal hinge rotate relative to each other about a fixed axis of rotation. Hinges may be made of flexible material or of moving components...

s and port holes were often made from non-ferrous metals such as brass
Brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

 and phosphor bronze
Phosphor bronze
Phosphor bronze is an alloy of copper with 3.5 to 10% of tin and a significant phosphorus content of up to 1%. The phosphorus is added as deoxidizing agent during melting....

, which do not corrode easily.

Salinity of water


Wrecks typically decay rapidly when in seawater
Seawater
Seawater is water from a sea or ocean. On average, seawater in the world's oceans has a salinity of about 3.5% . This means that every kilogram of seawater has approximately of dissolved salts . The average density of seawater at the ocean surface is 1.025 g/ml...

. There are several reasons for this:
  • Iron
    Iron
    Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

    -based metals corrode
    Corrosion
    Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

     much more quickly in seawater because of the dissolved salt
    Salt
    In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

     present; the sodium and chloride ion
    Ion
    An ion is an atom or molecule in which the total number of electrons is not equal to the total number of protons, giving it a net positive or negative electrical charge. The name was given by physicist Michael Faraday for the substances that allow a current to pass between electrodes in a...

    s chemically accelerate the process of metal oxidation which, in the case of ferrous metals, leads to rust
    Rust
    Rust is a general term for a series of iron oxides. In colloquial usage, the term is applied to red oxides, formed by the reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water or air moisture...

    .
  • Bacteria
    Bacteria
    Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

     found in fresh water cause the wood
    Wood
    Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

     on ships to rot more quickly than in seawater unless it's deprived of oxygen. Unprotected wood in seawater is rapidly consumed by shipworms and small wood-boring sea creatures.
  • Shipworms
    Shipworm
    Shipworms are not worms at all, but rather a group of unusual saltwater clams with very small shells, notorious for boring into wooden structures that are immersed in sea water, such as piers, docks and wooden ships...

     found in higher salinity waters, such as the Caribbean
    Caribbean
    The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

     are notorious for boring into wooden structures that are immersed in sea water and can completely destroy the hull of a wooden shipwreck.


Shipwrecks in some freshwater
Freshwater
Fresh water is naturally occurring water on the Earth's surface in ice sheets, ice caps, glaciers, bogs, ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, and underground as groundwater in aquifers and underground streams. Fresh water is generally characterized by having low concentrations of dissolved salts and...

 lakes, such as the Great Lakes
Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a collection of freshwater lakes located in northeastern North America, on the Canada – United States border. Consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, they form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface, coming in second by volume...

 of North America, have remained intact with little degradation. In some sea areas, most notably in Gulf of Bothnia
Gulf of Bothnia
The Gulf of Bothnia is the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It is situated between Finland's west coast and Sweden's east coast. In the south of the gulf lie the Åland Islands, between the Sea of Åland and the Archipelago Sea.-Name:...

 and Gulf of Finland
Gulf of Finland
The Gulf of Finland is the easternmost arm of the Baltic Sea. It extends between Finland and Estonia all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia, where the river Neva drains into it. Other major cities around the gulf include Helsinki and Tallinn...

, salinity is very low, and centuries-old wrecks have been preserved in reasonable condition.

Loss, salvage and demolition



An important factor in the condition of the wreck is the level of destruction at the time of the loss or shortly afterwards due to the nature of the loss, salvage or later demolition.

Examples of severe destruction at the time of loss are:
  • being blown onto a beach, reef or rocks during a storm (e.g. Royal Adelaide
    Royal Adelaide (1865)
    The Royal Adelaide was an iron sailing ship of 1400 tons built by William Patterson at Bristol in 1865.She was wrecked on Chesil Beach on 25 November 1872, while on a passage from London to Sydney with a crew of 32 and 35 passengers. In bad weather the ship tried to reach the shelter of Portland...

    )
  • collision with another ship (e.g. )
  • a catastrophic explosion (e.g. )
  • a fire that burns for a long time before the ships sinks (e.g. MS Achille Lauro
    MS Achille Lauro
    MS Achille Lauro was a cruise ship based in Naples, Italy. Built between 1939 and 1947 as MS Willem Ruys, a passenger liner for the Rotterdamsche Lloyd. It is most remembered for its 1985 hijacking...

    )


After the loss the owners of the ship may attempt to salvage
Marine salvage
Marine salvage is the process of rescuing a ship, its cargo, or other property from peril. Salvage encompasses rescue towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship...

 valuable parts of the ship or its cargo - this operation can cause damage.

Shipwrecks in shallow water near busy shipping lanes are often demolished to reduce the danger to other vessels.

Depth, tide and weather


On the seabed, wrecks are slowly broken up by the forces of wave action caused by the weather and currents caused by tide
Tide
Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the moon and the sun and the rotation of the Earth....

s. Also more highly oxygenated water, which promotes corrosion
Corrosion
Corrosion is the disintegration of an engineered material into its constituent atoms due to chemical reactions with its surroundings. In the most common use of the word, this means electrochemical oxidation of metals in reaction with an oxidant such as oxygen...

, reduces the strength of ferrous structural materials of the ship. Deeper wrecks are likely to be protected by less exposure to water movement and by lower levels of oxygen in water.

Temperature


Extreme cold (such as in a glacial-fed
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

 lake) can lead to slow degradation of organic ship materials.

Salvage of wrecks



Often, attempts are made to salvage
Marine salvage
Marine salvage is the process of rescuing a ship, its cargo, or other property from peril. Salvage encompasses rescue towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship...

 recently wrecked ships to recover the whole or part of the ship, its cargo, or its equipment. A good example of this was the scuttling and subsequent salvage of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow
Scuttling of the German fleet in Scapa Flow
The scuttling of the German fleet took place at the Royal Navy's base at Scapa Flow, in Scotland, after the end of the First World War. The High Seas Fleet had been interned there under the terms of the Armistice whilst negotiations took place over the fate of the ships...

 in the 1920s. The unauthorized salvage of wrecks is called wrecking
Wrecking (shipwreck)
Wrecking is the practice of taking valuables from a shipwreck which has foundered near or close to shore. Often an unregulated activity of opportunity in coastal communities, wrecking has been subjected to increasing regulation and evolved into what is now known as marine salvage...

.

Shipwrecks and the law


Shipwreck law determines important legal questions regarding wrecks, perhaps the most important question being the question of ownership. Legally wrecks are divided into wreccum maris (material washed ashore after a shipwreck) and adventurae maris (material still at sea); although some legal systems treat the two categories differently, others treat them the same.

Wrecks are often considered separately from their cargo. For example, in the English case of the Lusitania [1986] QB 384 it was accepted that the remains of the vessel itself were owned by the insurance underwriters who had paid out on the vessel as a total loss by virtue of the law of subrogation
Subrogation
Subrogation in its most common usage refers to circumstances in which an insurance company tries to recoup expenses for a claim it paid out when another party should have been responsible for paying at least a portion of that claim....

 (who subsequently sold their rights), but that the property aboard the wreck still belonged to its original owners (or their descendants).

Military wrecks, however, remain under the jurisdiction–and hence protection–of the government that lost the ship, or that government's successor. Hence, a German U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

 from World War II still technically belongs to the German government, even though the Third Reich is long-defunct. Many military wrecks are also protected by virtue of their being war grave
War grave
A war grave is a burial place for soldiers or civilians who died during military campaigns or operations. The term does not only apply to graves: ships sunk during wartime are often considered to be war graves, as are military aircraft that crash into water...

s.

However, many legal systems allow the rights of salvors to override the rights of the original owners of a wreck or its cargo. As a general rule, non-historic civilian shipwrecks are considered fair game for salvage. Under international maritime law, for shipwrecks of a certain age, the original owner may have lost all claim to the cargo. Anyone who finds the wreck can then file a salvage claim on it and place a lien on the vessel, and subsequently mount a salvage operation (see Finders, keepers).

Some countries assert claims to all wrecks within their territorial waters, irrespective of the interest of the original owner or the salvor. Wartime wrecks have different legal considerations, as they are often considered prizes of war
Prize (law)
Prize is a term used in admiralty law to refer to equipment, vehicles, vessels, and cargo captured during armed conflict. The most common use of prize in this sense is the capture of an enemy ship and its cargo as a prize of war. In the past, it was common that the capturing force would be allotted...

, and therefore owned by the Navy that sunk them.

Some legal systems regard a wreck (and/or its cargo) to be abandoned if no attempt is made to salvage them within a certain period of time. English law has usually resisted this notion (encouraged by an extremely large maritime insurance industry, which asserts claims in respect of shipwrecks which it has paid claims on), but is has been accepted to a greater or lesser degree in an Australian case and in a Norwegian case. The American courts have been inconsistent between states and at Federal level. Under Danish law, all shipwrecks over 150 years old belong to the state if no owner can be found. In Spain, wrecks vest in the state if not salvaged within 3 years. In Finland, all property on board shipwrecks over 100 years old vests in the state.

The British Protection of Wrecks Act
Protection of Wrecks Act 1973
The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which provides protection for designated shipwrecks. Section 1 of the act provides for wrecks to be designated because of historical, archaeological or artistic value. Section 2 provides for designation of...

, enacted to protect historic wrecks, controls access to wrecks such as Cattewater Wreck
Cattewater Wreck
The Cattewater Wreck is a wooden three-masted, skeleton-built vessel, one of many ships that have wrecked in Cattewater, Plymouth Sound, England...

 which can only be visited or investigated under licence. The British Protection of Military Remains Act 1986
Protection of Military Remains Act 1986
The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom which provides protection for the wreckage of military aircraft and designated military vessels. The Act provides for two types of protection: protected places and controlled sites. Military aircraft are...

 also restricts access to wrecks which are sensitive as war grave
War grave
A war grave is a burial place for soldiers or civilians who died during military campaigns or operations. The term does not only apply to graves: ships sunk during wartime are often considered to be war graves, as are military aircraft that crash into water...

s. The Protection of Military Remains Act in some cases creates a blanket ban on all diving; for other wrecks divers may visit provided they do not touch, interfere with or penetrate the wreck. In the United States, shipwrecks in state waters are regulated by the Abandoned Shipwrecks Act
Abandoned Shipwrecks Act
The Abandoned Shipwrecks Act is a United States piece of legislation passed into law in 1988 meant to protect historic shipwrecks from treasure hunters and salvagers by transferring the title of the wreck to the state whose waters it lies in.- Background :...

 of 1987. This act is much more lenient in allowing more open access to the shipwrecks.

Following the beaching of the MSC Napoli
MSC Napoli
MSC Napoli was a United Kingdom-flagged container ship that was deliberately broken up by salvors after she ran into difficulty in the English Channel on 18 January 2007.-Early history:...

, as a result of severe damage incurred during European storm Kyrill, there was confusion in the press and by the authorities about whether people could be prevented from helping themselves to the flotsam which was washed up on the beaches at Branscombe
Branscombe
The Old Bakery, Manor Mill & Forge is a collection of buildings in Branscombe, Seaton, Devon, England. The property has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1965.The property consists of three buildings: a bakery, a watermill and a forge....

. Many people took advantage of the confusion and helped themselves to the cargo. This included many BMW
BMW
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG is a German automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company founded in 1916. It also owns and produces the Mini marque, and is the parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. BMW produces motorcycles under BMW Motorrad and Husqvarna brands...

 motorbikes and empty wine casks as well as bags of disposable nappies (diapers). The legal position under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995
Merchant Shipping Act 1995
The Merchant Shipping Act 1995 is an Act of Parliament passed in the United Kingdom in 1995.The Merchant Shipping Act 2006 amended section 178 of the Act...

 is that any such finds and recovery must be reported within 28 days to the Receiver of Wreck
Receiver of Wreck
The Receiver of Wreck is an official who administers law dealing with wreck and salvage in some countries having a British administrative heritage.-Countries having a Receiver of Wreck:...

. Failure to do so is an offence under the Merchant Shipping Act and can result in a criminal record for theft by finding. After several days, the police and Receiver of Wreck, in conjunction with the landowner and the contracted salvors
Marine salvage
Marine salvage is the process of rescuing a ship, its cargo, or other property from peril. Salvage encompasses rescue towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship...

, established a cordon to prevent access to the beach. A similar situation occurred after the wreck of the MV Cita
MV Cita
On 26 March 1997, the 300-ft merchant vessel MV Cita pierced its hull when running aground on rocks off the south coast of the Isles of Scilly in gale-force winds en route from Southampton to Belfast...

 in 1997.

Historic wrecks (often but not always defined as being more than 50 years of age) are often protected from pillaging and looting through national laws protecting cultural heritage. Internationally they may be protected by a State ratifying the Unesco Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. In this case pillaging is not allowed.

An important international convention aiming at the protection of underwater cultural heritage (including shipwrecks) is the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.
The 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage represents the international community's response to the increasing looting and destruction of underwater cultural heritage. It forms part of a group of UNESCO standard setting instruments regarding the domain of cultural heritage, encompassing seven conventions adopted by UNESCO Member States, which constitute a coherent and complementary body guaranteeing a complete protection of all forms of cultural heritage.

The UNESCO 2001 Convention is an international treaty aimed exclusively at the protection of underwater cultural heritage and the facilitation of international cooperation in this regard. It does not change sovereignty rights of States or regulate the ownership of wrecks or submerged ruins.

Notable salvage of shipwrecks


In 2011, the most valuable cargo of a sunken shipwreck was identified near the western edge of the Celtic Sea
Celtic Sea
The Celtic Sea is the area of the Atlantic Ocean off the south coast of Ireland bounded to the east by Saint George's Channel; other limits include the Bristol Channel, the English Channel, and the Bay of Biscay, as well as adjacent portions of Wales, Cornwall, Devon, and Brittany...

. This World War II era sinking of the SS Gairsoppa
SS Gairsoppa
The SS Gairsoppa was a British steam merchant ship that saw service during the Second World War. She sailed with several convoys, before joining Convoy SL 64. Running low on fuel, she left the convoy and headed for Galway, Ireland, but was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat...

 led to a treasure almost three miles deep.

See also



  • Shipwreck (accident)
    Shipwreck (accident)
    A shipwreck can refer to a wrecked ship or to the event that caused the wreck, such as the striking of something that causes the ship to sink, the stranding of the ship on rocks, land or shoal, or the destruction of the ship at sea by violent weather...

  • Hulk (ship)
    Hulk (ship)
    A hulk is a ship that is afloat, but incapable of going to sea. Although sometimes used to describe a ship that has been launched but not completed, the term most often refers to an old ship that has had its rigging or internal equipment removed, retaining only its flotational qualities...

  • Abandoned Shipwrecks Act
    Abandoned Shipwrecks Act
    The Abandoned Shipwrecks Act is a United States piece of legislation passed into law in 1988 meant to protect historic shipwrecks from treasure hunters and salvagers by transferring the title of the wreck to the state whose waters it lies in.- Background :...

  • Flotsam and jetsam
    Flotsam and jetsam
    In maritime law, flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict describe specific kinds of wreck.The words have specific nautical meanings, with legal consequences in the law of admiralty and marine salvage....

  • Sinking ships for wreck diving sites
    Sinking ships for wreck diving sites
    Sinking ships for wreck diving sites is the practice of scuttling old ships to produce artificial reefs suitable for wreck diving, to benefit from commercial revenues from recreational diving of the shipwreck, or to produce a diver training site....

  • Underwater archaeology
    Underwater archaeology
    Underwater archaeology is archaeology practised underwater. As with all other branches of archaeology it evolved from its roots in pre-history and in the classical era to include sites from the historical and industrial eras...

  • Wreck diving
    Wreck diving
    Wreck diving is a type of recreational diving where shipwrecks are explored. Although most wreck dive sites are at shipwrecks, there is an increasing trend to scuttle retired ships to create artificial reef sites...


External links