Here’s How Many Shipwrecks Are Lost In The Ocean

Humans have been sailing the oceans for thousands of years; indeed, ocean voyages are mentioned more than once in the Bible, and we were sailing long before the writers of that text put pen to paper. However, the sea has always been a cruel mistress, and will take down ships and sailors without a moment’s thought, as it has been doing for as long as we’ve been trying to conquer it. Shipwrecks have inspired songs, such as “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” or movies, such as “Titanic.” What’s more, many shipwrecks are something akin to tourist attractions, with divers exploring those testaments to the sea’s superiority over technology. Other shipwrecks almost certainly carried gold and other valuables, and as BBC News reports, there’s an entire industry devoted to finding gold-laden shipwrecks and retrieving their cargo for profit.

But how many shipwrecks are there at the bottom of the ocean? There’s no telling for certain, of course, since not every shipwreck has been documented, nor has every square inch of the ocean floor been studied. But scientists have come up with a number, and it’s surprisingly high.

There are an estimated three million shipwrecks across the world

According to UNESCO, there are an estimated three million shipwrecks scattered across the ocean floor. Similarly, a report from the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration gives the same estimate, further noting that less than 1% of those wrecks has been explored.

The oldest known shipwreck is that of the Dokos, believed to have sunk c. 2700-2200 B.C. Nothing remains of the ship itself, but artifacts that the vessel carried remain on the ocean floor off the coast of Greece.

Indeed, those artifacts are one of the reasons the scientific community is keen to explore sunken shipwrecks (in addition to salvaging their valuable gold and jewels and such). As UNESCO notes, the contents of those wrecks provide insight into not just what life aboard the ship was like, but also about the trade between the societies between which the ship was sailing.

Historians are still searching for several historically significant shipwrecks, according to Discovery. Missing ships waiting to be discovered include Columbus’s Santa Maria and Ernes Shackleton’s Endurance.

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