Regardless of their location, shipwrecks are among the most requested recreational diving destinations worldwide. There are many excellent examples of State, Federal, and international shipwreck parks, preserves, and sanctuaries that promote shipwrecks as cultural resources with significant historical and recreational values. However, Indiana University’s innovative approach promotes shipwrecks as an integral part of the environment, forming equilibrium where the historical, cultural and biological resources are significant. Particularly in warm Caribbean waters, a shipwreck offers the unique opportunity to incorporate the biological biodiversity associated with the shipwreck and its surrounding marine environment into an innovative “Living Museum” concept, where submerged historical, cultural and natural resources are respected.
Criteria for Determining New Park Eligibility
When investigating potential new underwater parks, preserves, and sanctuaries, the following criteria is considered:
Is the site easy to access? Will the site be accessible by shore or by boat?
Will divers be able to see the remains of the shipwreck? Will they be able to safely navigate throughout the site?
Will potential deep depths limit the number of qualified divers? What certifications are required for divers to be able to access the site? Can Open Water divers or snorkelers access the site, or would it require a more advanced certification?
Will strong currents pose any hazardous conditions for divers? Will it be difficult to access or stay on the site?
- Prominent and/or visible features
What parts of the shipwreck are visible and engaging for divers? Will they be able to see the wreck, or are the majority of features obscured by sand or other environment elements?
- Aquatic Life
What types of aquatic life will be visible to divers? Are there any hazardous marine life concerns? Endangered marine life concerns?
- Coral structures
What types of coral structures will be visible to divers? Are there any hazardous coral species concerns? Endangered coral species concerns?
- Minimal intrusive features
Are any modern debris pieces or obstructions such as docks, piping systems, etc., hindering the visibility, safety, or overall experience for divers?
- Scientific research potential
What opportunities exist for marine scientists, archaeologists, geologists, environmentalists, etc.? Do these scientists have adequate access to the site?
- General park potential
Will the park bring in appropriate numbers of divers? What kind of revenue will the park yield? How will the park benefit the local economy? Will the park continue to generate diver interest over time?
- Proximity to dive services
Is the site within a reasonable distance from local dive shops and services? Will there be any dive charter operations that can take divers to the site? Is dive equipment available for rent, purchase, and/or maintenance services?
- Proximity to appropriate medical services
In the event of a diving emergency, will the injured diver be able to reach appropriate medical services in a safe amount of time?
Significance of Shipwrecks
To be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, a vessel must be significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, or culture and possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials workmanship, feeling, and association. To be considered significant the vessel must meet one or more of the four National Register criteria:
1) be associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.
2) be associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.
3) embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.
4) have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.