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The Second Death of Long-Submerged Shipwrecks (Climate Change themed article - Ugh)
Atas Obscura ^ | 27JUL18 | by Jessica Leigh Hester

Posted on 03/23/2019 5:48:46 AM PDT by vannrox

Climate change is coming for underwater archaeological sites.

by Jessica Leigh Hester
July 27, 2018
Landmarks Week
July 23–27
Wrecks stand to see a number of threats in a changing ocean. Here, NOAA diver John Brooks a ship off the coast of Hawaii. Wrecks stand to see a number of threats in a changing ocean. Here, NOAA diver John Brooks a ship off the coast of Hawaii. Robert Schwemmer, CINMS, NOAA/CC-by 2.0

On a choppy voyage to Antarctica in 1928, the crew of the ship that would eventually be rechristened as the Vamar bestowed upon their vessel an optimistic nickname: “Evermore Rolling.” It proved to be a bit of a misnomer. Far from slicing through cresting waves forever, the ship sank near Florida in 1942, 3.7 miles from the shore of Mexico Beach, possibly because it was loaded down with too much lumber.

It was wrecked, true, but its story didn’t end there. In 2004, the shipwreck was designated as one of Florida’s Underwater Archaeological Preserves; it was added to the National Register of Historic Places two years later. Now, the sepia, green, and gold waters around it are full of life. Fish dart through the ruins of the mangled iron broiler, and plants shoot up through the piecemeal hull and beams. Sea turtles scratch their shells against iron bars splayed out just above the sandy seabed, leaving burnt-orange rust behind them. Divers drop by to take it all in.

Shipwrecks aren’t necessarily barren, static things, vanished and abandoned to the deep water and the recesses of someone’s foggy memory. They may be moldering, but, like the Vamar, they’re often active places—part cultural heritage site, part dynamic ecosystem. They’re constantly in flux, and they’ll be impacted as climate change affects the water that holds them.Some wrecks lay flush against the sand. Some wrecks lay flush against the sand. NOAA Photo Library/CC by 2.0

For years, archaeologists have mainly been concerned with what climate change might do to places where the land meets the water. They’ve examined ways to stave off rising tides by buffering sites that will be swamped, hauling things to higher ground, or documenting whatever they can in the water’s path. For these sites that are not yet damp, water is a threat—sometimes a distant one, sometimes one that’s gaining ground—but for the wrecks, it’s a foregone conclusion. That ship has sailed—and sunk.

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With climate change, “sea-level rise is the most obvious thing people are used to hearing about, and the most easily dismissed with submerged sites,” says Jeneva Wright, an underwater archaeologist and research fellow at East Carolina University. Sea-level rise is far from the only climate-related threat facing submerged sites, though: Wright outlined a handful of others in a 2016 paper in the Journal of Maritime Archaeology, written when she was working as an archaeologist in the National Parks Services’ Submerged Resources Center.

Across the field, there’s admittedly little data about some of these risks, and Wright says that archaeologists would do well to collaborate with biologists, ecologists, oceanographers, and other scientists who have amassed much more information about what a changing climate will do to parts of these ecosystems. For now, Wright describes her reading of these risks as “theoretical, hypothetical, and logical,” meaning that though there’s fairly limited research within archaeology, these forecasts square with projections that researchers in other fields have arrived at, after starting to scrutinize the future effects of climate change on, for instance, ocean chemistry, reefs, and other marine life.

Storm surges and violent weather pose an immediate threat: Hurricanes tracking right over shipwrecks can splinter them into oblivion, or at least strip protective coverings and expose timbers, coral-covered cannonballs, and other features to battering currents and wind. This already happens. As a graduate student in 2014, Wright conducted research in Biscayne National Park, at the HMS Fowey. To cushion the wreck against a storm surge or hurricane event, the Parks Service had partially reburied it with sandbags and sediment. Then a storm swept through the following year. When it hit, “all of that sediment was dispersed and taken away,” Wright says. “It was sort of a failure of the reburial effort, but was sort of a success, because if that sand hadn’t been there, it would have been just this 18th-century British warship that had dispersed all over the place.”Many wrecks are coated in concretions, which look like cement and can help hold everything together.Many wrecks are coated in concretions, which look like cement and can help hold everything together. NOAA Photo Library/CC by 2.0

Other changes will be less physically brutal, and maybe less obvious to landlubbers, compared with pelting rain and wild winds. Wrecks are already deluged, of course, but rising sea levels could affect them, too, because depth changes—even relatively small ones—can trigger changes that cascade through the environment. Underwater, a change in depth can correlate to a change in temperature, and that in turn may change the species that can survive there. Take seagrass. In many wrecks around Florida, for instance, seagrass functions as an anchor, holding sediment in place and blanketing fragile timbers. Some of these species vanish below about 30 feet; anything deeper is too cold, too dark, and too devoid of oxygen. A sea-level rise of just a few meters could theoretically swamp these wrecks with enough water to threaten the survival of the species that lock them in place, Wright says. (In Florida, the National Parks Service manages parks around the estimate that waters will rise three feet by 2100.)

As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, it is also becoming hotter and more acidic. The Smithsonian has referred to ocean acidification as “climate change’s equally evil twin,” and it could pose big problems for wrecks. Associated chemical changes will likely erode the cement-like coating that covers many historic wrecks. This protective layer, called concretion, appears most often on iron wrecks; it’s a byproduct of rust interacting with seawater and attracting organisms. “You’ve got this crusty stuff that’s covering everything, and it can protect it for centuries,” Wright says. But “because it’s a calcium carbonate—just like Tums that you would eat if you had an upset stomach—it’s really, really sensitive to acid.” When the acid content increases,”all of that protective coating that’s over these cultural materials can vanish—like, literally vanish,” Wright says. Research in this vein tends to focus on the similar threats faced by calcifying marine life such as corals, clams, oysters, and sea urchins. When researchers extrapolate that to shipwrecks, Wright says, “You go, ‘Ooh, that’s bad.’”

Chemical changes can also be quite dangerous in light of what might still be stashed inside a ship’s hull. Sunken World War II naval vessels might still hold a smattering of “big, bad things,” Wright adds, from armaments to biohazards such as vast quantities of oil. Most of these ships are made of rusting metals. “The more temperature you add, and the more acidic that environment is, the faster those shipwrecks can deteriorate,” Wright says. “And suddenly you’re looking at the loss of cultural heritage, but you’re also looking at the release of whatever those wrecks are holding.” In many cases, it’s not realistic to extract the potential pollutants from these sites, or to raise them from the sea. They may be war graves, holding soldiers’ remains, or else submerged in very deep water.Divers study the SS <em>City Washington</em> in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.Divers study the SS City Washington in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Tane Casserley/NOAA/Public Domain

One way to get a handle on all of these dangers is to track them. That can be tricky, because archaeologists and rangers don’t always stop by to regularly check in on watery wrecks as easily as they do terrestrial sites, says Sara Ayers-Rigsby, director of the southwest and southeast branches of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), a project based out of the division of archaeology and anthropology at the University of West Florida and Florida Atlantic University.

“These sights are very much out of sight, out of mind for everyone who doesn’t dive,” says Della Scott-Ireton, the associate director of the FPAN program. But in Florida, a lot of people do dive. Tourists often come to Florida to explore the 12 underwater archaeological preserves scattered all around the state’s perimeter, or the nine wrecks that dot the reefs and sandy floor of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, managed by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. NOAA has devised a “Shipwreck Trail,” which divers are welcome to visit, and the Department of State has documented the sunken bows, sterns, and other portions of the wrecks that comprise what it calls “Museums in the Sea.” Scott-Ireton describes places like these as “low-hanging fruit”: Since divers will already be there, FPAN stands to benefit from persuading them to jot down some observations while they swim around.

Tapping into the citizen science brain trust is logical, because tourist divers already have their goggled eyes on the seabed. FPAN runs trainings in archaeological stewardship for sport divers, and earlier this summer, began adapting its Heritage Monitoring Scouts program—a self-guided citizen science effort—to include observations of underwater sites. Participants will descend with a waterproof mylar form for recording their observations, and look around for evidence of climate impacts (say, sediment buildup or disappearance), as well as other changes, like traces of looting or vandalism. So far, FPAN has received ten forms, Ayers-Rigsby says, including some that document sites that the archaeologists didn’t yet have on file. Eventually, Scott-Ireton hopes to be able to loan out salinity meters so that divers can take measurements and report back, but that will depend on future funding.

In the past, there have been occasional skirmishes between archaeologists, who want to preserve the past, and some divers, who want to plunder it. Wright says it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. “As a diver and someone who gets excited about shipwrecks, you can direct that enthusiasm in two ways,” she says. One option is pilfering a porthole for your mantlepiece, as a souvenir. The alternative, she says, is marveling at things where they landed, and thinking, “I experienced this amazing dive, and I want to protect it, and I want to be a part of telling its story.”

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ancientnavigation; change; climate; climatechange; co2; demagogicparty; dnctalkingpoint; dnctalkingpoints; globalwarminghoax; godsgravesglyphs; greennewdeal; jessicaleighhester; mediawingofthednc; navigation; partisanmediashills; presstitutes; ship; smearmachine; sunk

1 posted on 03/23/2019 5:48:46 AM PDT by vannrox
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To: SunkenCiv

interesting, except for the climate change nonsense. I suspect a healthy Obama-grant somehow paid for her dinner.

2 posted on 03/23/2019 5:49:40 AM PDT by vannrox (The Preamble to the Bill of Rights - without it, our Bill of Rights is meaningless!)
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To: vannrox

Democrats pride themselves as “agents of change”.

They elected Saint Obama twice on the promise of unspecified “Change”.

And they have spent the first 2½ years of the Trump administration promising change if you will only vote for democrats.

They apparently love change, but only if it is manmade by democrats .

Their big environmental campaign plank for the last half century has been to halt natural processes and changes in the environment that have been shaping the planet for billions of years.

They want to freeze the oceans, rivers, continents, glaciers, atmosphere and everything in the world and keep it all as it was at some point in the last half century.

Or do they just want total control over the lives of others?

3 posted on 03/23/2019 6:10:32 AM PDT by Vlad The Inhaler (Give me Norfolk Virginia TideWater4-1009 The poor Boy Is On The Line)
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To: vannrox

My uncle told me returning from the Philippines at the end of WWII, they were dumping all sorts of military vehicles overboard before they got to San Francisco.

4 posted on 03/23/2019 6:14:13 AM PDT by OrioleFan (Republicans believe every day is July 4th, Democrats believe every day is April 15th.)
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To: vannrox

Talk about living vicariously

5 posted on 03/23/2019 6:17:12 AM PDT by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: vannrox

Sable Island holds the bones of many shipwrecks

6 posted on 03/23/2019 6:18:29 AM PDT by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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Truk is a great dive spot

7 posted on 03/23/2019 6:23:30 AM PDT by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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8 posted on 03/23/2019 6:25:49 AM PDT by mylife (The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts)
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To: vannrox

I have a feeling that massive hordes of divers swimming around and combing through the shipwrecks present a greater danger to the artifacts than rising sea levels.

9 posted on 03/23/2019 6:49:40 AM PDT by Milton Miteybad (I am Jim Thompson. {Really.})
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To: OrioleFan

A recent ship fire and sinking sent 30 hotrod Porsches down 15,000 feet.
It’s not likely they’ll be recovered.

10 posted on 03/23/2019 7:06:42 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (Baseball players, gangsters and musicians are remembered. But journalists are forgotten.)
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To: vannrox; 240B; 75thOVI; Adder; albertp; asgardshill; At the Window; bitt; blu; BradyLS; ...
Thanks vannrox. Adding to the GGG list, but not pinging. Hmm, okay, maybe I will ping it, because of that tidbit from the Odyssey, that Odysseus lived in many cities of men and learnt their mind. :^) The thing about ancient wrecks is, they're WRECKS. Most known wrecks have been identified in shallow waters (that's where the pointy rocks hide that poke holes in hulls) and generally little is left apart from some of their cargo. Deepwater wrecks probably resulted from sudden large storms, and secondarily ship-ramming combat, and as we've seen from the Black Sea, they can be remarkably well preserved. Since they've been down there, the climate -- which is 100 percent natural 100 percent of the time -- has swung through centuries of changes, and more than once, and with no especially egregious results. WTH, ping to GGG, and this will be our weekly digest ping.

11 posted on 03/23/2019 9:21:51 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (this tagline space is now available)
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To: OrioleFan
Rough weather, or just Truman's orders?

12 posted on 03/23/2019 9:24:51 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (this tagline space is now available)
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To: vannrox; SaveFerris; PROCON; FredZarguna; mylife; Lil Flower; Corky Ramirez; CopperTop; ...
And let's not forget the Andrea Doria.

13 posted on 03/23/2019 10:04:28 AM PDT by Gamecock (In church today, we so often find we meet only the same old world, not Christ and His Kingdom. AS)
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To: Milton Miteybad

Illegal scrappers present a far greater threat to sunken ships in the Far East. Several warships in shallow water around Java and Malaysia have already been virtually (if not completely) destroyed by them.

14 posted on 03/23/2019 10:24:11 AM PDT by M1903A1 ("We shed all that is good and virtuous for that which is shoddy and sleazy...and call it progress")
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To: vannrox

These morons want to conserve everything except traditional American culture. That they want to destroy.

15 posted on 03/23/2019 11:04:07 AM PDT by Hardastarboard (Three most annoying words on the internet - "Watch the video")
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To: vannrox

Blah blah blah, might happen, blah blah blah, could be disastrous, blah blah blah, poor creatures in our hypothetical scenarios, blah blah blah...

PROVE something for pete’s sake. Better yet find real work and stfu.

16 posted on 03/23/2019 11:06:25 AM PDT by Adder (Mr. Franklin: We are trying to get the Republic back!)
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To: Hardastarboard

[These morons want to conserve everything except traditional American culture. That they want to destroy.]

That’s for sure

17 posted on 03/23/2019 11:12:54 PM PDT by SaveFerris (Luke 17:28 ... as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold ......)
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