UPDATE: Twelve Ancient Shipwrecks Discovered in the Baltic Sea

Posted on March 13, 2010


Earlier this week here on the CPAL Blog I mentioned that twelve shipwrecks had been found in the Baltic Sea by a pipeline company laying an underwater pipe, among them a medieval ship.  This morning, in a story called “Ancient Shipwrecks a Wonder of the Baltic Triangle,” NPR gives more details on the wrecks in a 10-minute audio segment.  In the text portion of the article, the following explanation is given as to the number of wrecks and how well preserved they are:

“They’re preserved as if they were sailing just yesterday,” Andreas Olsson tells NPR’s Jacki Lyden. Olsson is the head of the archeological unit of the Swedish National Maritime Museum. On some vessels, he says, even the masts are still standing.

At depths of 430 feet and more, the ships are too deep for divers to reach, but robotic submersibles have been taking video and photos. The images show intact hulls and even cargo — such as limestone and wooden barrels.

The medieval ship is more deteriorated, Olsson says, but on younger ships you can see structural details and equipment. “You see the wheels, you see rigging details, doors — everything is still there.”

The amazing condition of these wrecks is because of the low salinity of the Baltic Sea, which helps preserve the wood. Plus, the ship worms that eat away at wrecks in other seas can’t survive in Baltic waters, Olsson says.

He credits intense shipping traffic along the 30-mile corridor of the Baltic for the large number of wrecks found. “It’s bordered by many countries — it’s quite a small sea — and we also have the Swedish archipelago, which is difficult to navigate.”

The article mentions that the wrecks are just off the coast of Sweden, but we still haven’t heard what kinds of ships these were (private or sovereign), so there’s no way to know who will ultimately claim ownership of the wrecks.  The reason for the lack of specific information is that the wrecks are deep enough (430 feet) that standard commercial divers can’t go explore them, so only cameras have made the journey down thus far.

Read or listen to Ancient Shipwrecks a Wonder of the Baltic Triangle on NPR.