Shipwrecks may be found accidentally, while we are looking for something else, or via targeted missions to locate specific wrecks

photographing a  wreck site in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

A NOAA archaeologist photographs a wreck site in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary using specially a constructed sled mounted with a high-resolution camera.

Sometimes, we know that a ship sank and we know roughly where it went down. In these cases, scientists and explorers may mount specific expeditions to find these ships. These missions may take many years trying to track down and locate that particular shipwreck and involve generations of people trying to track it down. A classic example of this approach would be the U.S.S. Monitor or the H.M.S. Titantic.

In other instances, shipwrecks are found accidentally. NOAA ships can spot wrecks when surveying the ocean bottom and collecting other scientific data. Fishermen may hit something on the bottom with their gear or a diver may encounter an undiscovered wreck while exploring an area. These instances often lead to partnership opportunities, where the sanctuary can go in and help pull back the curtain, providing the resources and expertise needed to help unravel the mystery of the shipwreck.


Did You Know?

An estimated 1,000 shipwrecks lie off the Florida Keys. They are there for a number of reasons, ranging from ocean currents, huge waves when winter fronts hit form the North American mainland, frequent hurricanes, the jagged reefs, the numerous colonial wars fought in the Straits, and the huge amount of ship traffic passing by the Keys.