The Degradation of Wooden- and Steel-Hulled Shipwrecks in the Marine Environment

Author(s): James D. Moore III; Brian A. Jordan

Year: 2015


A combination of oceanographic processes continuously interact with exposed shipwreck hull surfaces.  Wood degradation primarily occurs when organisms break down cell structures, and marine borers and bacteria are the most common wood degraders found at shipwreck sites.  Wood degradation also depends on other factors including the tree species utilized, level of microbial activity, and site-specific environmental conditions.  In addition, the corrosion of steel-hulled shipwrecks does not occur in a uniform manner over time and can vary across a site.  Corrosion variability is initially controlled by oxygen concentrations, which influence the presence and activity of marine microorganisms.  While microorganisms can form protective biofilms on the exposed metal and corrosion layer surfaces, species-specific microbial metabolic processes, such as from sulfate-reducing bacteria, can subsequently accelerate or further reduce the corrosion process.  The effects of an oil spill and dispersants on the natural biological processes that occur on shipwreck sites are presently being studied.

Cite this Record

The Degradation of Wooden- and Steel-Hulled Shipwrecks in the Marine Environment. James D. Moore III, Brian A. Jordan. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Seattle, Washington. 2015 ( tDAR id: 433808)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 232