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Preserving Our Maritime Heritage: A Legacy Beneath the Waves




Maritime heritage plays a crucial role in preserving and protecting the historical, cultural, and archaeological treasures found within our coastal, marine, and Great Lakes environments. This preservation effort ensures that valuable resources, such as historic shipwrecks, prehistoric archaeological sites, archival documents, and oral histories, remain intact for future generations to study and appreciate.

Understanding Maritime Heritage Resources

The study of maritime heritage resources involves meticulous techniques like photo-documentation and creating detailed archaeological site plans. These methods help researchers document and analyze sites without causing disturbance. Occasionally, in rare and carefully managed cases, artifacts are recovered and preserved in museums through long-term conservation efforts.

Maritime heritage is not confined to physical artifacts alone. It encompasses the stories of indigenous cultures that have navigated and utilized the oceans for thousands of years. These narratives, passed down through generations, form an integral part of our maritime legacy.

National Marine Sanctuaries and Maritime Heritage

Each of our national marine sanctuaries and two national monuments has a dedicated maritime heritage component. This can range from the protection of shipwrecks to the study of indigenous cultures. The Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, established in 1975 off the coast of North Carolina, was the first sanctuary to include a maritime heritage component, setting a precedent for future conservation efforts.

The Importance of Preservation

Studying maritime heritage resources in their natural settings is the preferred method, as it prevents damage and maintains the integrity of the sites. Properly studied and interpreted maritime heritage resources enrich our understanding of our nation’s maritime history. They highlight the importance of being wise stewards of our ocean planet, ensuring that these legacies remain for future generations to explore and learn from.

By appreciating and preserving our maritime heritage, we not only honor the past but also become more conscious of our responsibility to protect and sustain our ocean environments for the future.

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