Erasing Our Sunken Past

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Michael Brennan, Alex DeCiccio, and Dwight Coleman

University of Rhode Island


Expeditions in the Aegean Sea discovered over 25 ancient shipwrecks between 2009-2012, dating to the Greek and Roman times. These ships sank in deep waters, which has protected many of them from the reach of divers and storms. However, many of these sites are heavily damaged by commercial fishing, which use towed bottom trawls to drag up fish and shrimp from the seabed. These weighted nets destroy and scatter the artifacts on these wreck sites to the point that they become jumbled fields of broken pottery rather than intact historical sites. This research works to justify the establishment of Marine Protected Areas around areas containing many shipwreck sites to help preserve them by restricting the use of bottom trawls in these areas. Only through continued exploration can we understand the full breadth of what lies in these waters and how best to protect them for future generations.


Michael L. Brennan, Robert D. Ballard, Chris Roman, Katherine L.C. Bell, Bridget Buxton, Dwight F. Coleman, Gabrielle Inglis, Orkan Köyağasıoğlu, Tufan Turanlı, Evaluation of the modern submarine landscape off southwestern Turkey through the documentation of ancient shipwreck sites, Continental Shelf Research, Volume 43, 15 July 2012, Pages 55-70, ISSN 0278-4343,

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By the Numbers

Over 40,000 students in 50 US states, the US Virgin Islands, and 25 countries participated as judges in the 2016 Ocean 180 Video Challenge.