Shipwrecks: Historical Sites and Marine Reserves
To continue our dive into the connection between cultural and environmental conservation, this blog will focus on sites that bring it into sharp focus. Shipwrecks.
The shipwrecks you find around Bermuda are not just part of our island’s history, their integration with our reef and the marine life that flourishes amongst them also make them an important marine habitat. All around the world, shipwrecks have been recognized for the positive role they play in encouraging marine diversity. Like in the Dutch North Sea, where they cover less than 1% of the sea floor but are home to the highest percentage of sea life. The wrecks in this area provide a hard, intricate surface that serves as nurseries and refuges for vulnerable marine species on an otherwise soft, sandy plain.
Although we don’t have the same issues as the Dutch North Sea, you can still find similar phenomena here in Bermuda. One example is the Constellation, a cargo vessel that wrecked northwest of our island in 1943. The Constellation was carrying tons of cement bags, which were scattered around the vessel when she sank and are now used by sergeant-majors as shelters for their eggs. The algae growing on these bags also feeds parrotfish, performing a similar function as our reefs.
In recognition of this fact, many ships around the world have been intentionally sunk to create artificial reefs. One sinking was documented in Kodiak Queen, a film following the journey of a Pearl Harbor survivor from abandoned ship destined for the scrapyard to artificial reef. You can watch that film and more by signing up to Waterbear, a free service that provides access to hundreds of environmental films.
Shipwrecks are a perfect example of how environmental conservation and cultural conservation can be one in the same. By protecting them not only are you preserving heritage, but you are also preserving a complex habitat that marine life can thrive on.