Ghost Fleet of the Potomac

Latest update December 4, 2018 Started on November 16, 2018
sea

Exploring the largest collection of historic shipwrecks in the Western Hemisphere to make the case for a new National Marine Sanctuary.

November 16, 2018
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Preparation Stage

As we plan and prep, check out this incredible drone footage of the Potomac Ghost Fleet in Mallows Bay.

What an amazing variety! I'm especially interested in the vessel with wooden planking, and iron bulkheads. Where I work, in the Great Lakes, timber was plentiful and cheap, while iron generally wasn't. Iron knees and drift pins were just about it. Any details on its identity?

This is incredibly exciting!


Take a look at a Google maps shot of Mallow's Bay.

~80 hull outlines!

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That's a fantastic number of hulks!

Wow, a lot of ship hulls, indeed! I'm looking forward to learning more about the ecosystem that has developed around these.

Expedition Background

War. Salvage. Scandal. Sanctuary.


At the peak of World War I, with German U-boats laying waste to the Atlantic merchant fleet, the United States initiated an unprecedented shipbuilding effort. The Emergency Shipbuilding Corporation issued contracts to build almost 800 new merchant ships to support the war effort.

Less than 100 ships were completed before Armistice.

Rushed through production, even those ships that left port under their own steam were plagued with mechanical problems. None ever made an Atlantic crossing. The US was left with the question of what to do with a fleet of flawed and incomplete vessels.

Western Marine & Salvage Company bought much of the derelict fleet and hauled their ships to the shores of the Potomac, where they would be scrapped and burned for salvage. Before they could finish the job, the Great Depression set the salvage markets into turmoil, and the remaining ships were left to rot.

As the US entered the Second World War, Bethlehem Steel took possession of the fleet and stripped the wrecks of any valuable metals. As the war ended, the ghost fleet was again abandoned and forgotten.

Scandal erupted over the fleet in the 1960s, as a front company for the Potomac Electric Power Company attempted to have the fleet removed to lay the groundwork for new power station. The House Committee on Government Operations declared the a unique ecosystem had developed around the ghost fleet and that the ships were now habitat for plants and animals.

Mallows Bay is now home to the largest collection of historic shipwrecks in the western hemisphere. The Ghost Fleet of the Potomac is one of a number of new freshwater systems currently under consideration for Sanctuary status by NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries program. Join us this January as we take to the land, sea, and sky to explore Mallows Bay and reflect on the past and future of the Ghost Fleet of the Potomac.

Photo Credit: Marine Robotics & Remote Sensing Lab, Duke University

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Andrew this is awesome! You guys need some volunteer help let me know you’re in my backyard. Love this idea!!

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