Writer/editor/audio producer

The Second Death of Long-Submerged Shipwrecks

 

The Second Death of Long-Submerged Shipwrecks

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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.