What do historic shipwrecks, archaeological resources, whaling, and native cultures all have in common? They are all components of our maritime history. Maritime heritage includes not only physical resources such as historic shipwrecks and prehistoric archaeological sites, but also archival documents, oral histories, and the stories of indigenous cultures that have lived and used the ocean for centuries. Stewardship of our maritime heritage means preserving and protecting these important historical, cultural, and archaeological resources within our coastal, marine, and Great Lakes waters. Maritime heritage is a way to connect all of us to the ocean, not just those living along the coast. Understanding our maritime heritage helps us explore the history of our country. Protecting maritime resources helps to preserve and further study our historic use of our nation's coastal and Great Lakes waters.
From shipwrecks to archaeological resources to studies of indigenous cultures, did you know that there is a maritime heritage component to each of our nation's 13 national marine sanctuaries and our one national monument? In fact, the first sanctuary ever created was USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Located off the coast of North Carolina, this sanctuary protects the wreck of the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, best known for its battle with the Confederate ironclad Virginiain Hampton Roads, Virginia, on March 9, 1862.
The history of NOAA and the nation are intertwined. It is difficult to talk about our weather, water, climate, and commerce without discussing NOAA and its ancestor agencies. NOAA's heritage resources include everything from photographs to books, charts, maps, scientific instruments, and other artifacts—some centuries old. Whether it's a nautical chart plate engraved in the 1850s, a tidal computer developed in the 1880s, or an original hurricane bulletin issued in the early 1900s, each artifact tells a story about the evolution of NOAA and our nation.
Maritime archaeology is the study of past human cultures, with an emphasis on how we interacted with the world's ocean, lakes, and rivers in the past. This science is used to interpret the material remains of past cultures including ships and small craft, their crews and cargoes, and their shore-based facilities. While maritime archaeology is best known for its focus on shipwrecks, it is really the study of everything connected to seafaring and coastal living, including submerged prehistoric sites.
Throughout history, people have always been drawn to the ocean, for food and other resources and as a means to travel. NOAA works to explore these many human connections to the sea. It is important to gain a greater appreciation of indigenous maritime cultures, traditional seafaring, host culture perspectives, and traditional marine environmental knowledge. Gaining an awareness of the great variety of human connections to the sea can help us all become better stewards of our ocean resources.