Tour 100 abandoned ships from WWI ‘Ghost Fleet’ at the new marine sanctuary

More than 100 abandoned wooden steamships built during World War I dot the bottom of the country’s newest national marine sanctuary on the Potomac River.

The Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary is the first marine sanctuary to be designated since 2000, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 18-mile stretch of the river through Maryland includes artifacts from American history well before World War I, NOAA said in a press release.

“The new sanctuary boasts a collection of historic shipwrecks dating back to the Civil War, as well as archaeological artifacts nearly 12,000 years old. Its culturally rich landscape also includes sites that represent the history of Native American communities in the area, the once-booming Potomac River fishing industry and the Civil War,” NOAA said.

The Mallows Bay “Ghost Fleet” is the most distinguishing feature in the new marine park, with 118 wooden ships that were grounded in the river after World War I. The fleet was “built in response to threats from World War I-era German U-boats that were sinking ships in the Atlantic,” NOAA said.

The ships never saw action during the war, so they were brought up the Potomac to be scrapped for metal near the site of the new marine sanctuary, according to the press release.

Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary features more than 100 abandoned wooden boats from World War I. NOAA

“Today, nature has reclaimed the ships, with some appearing to look like long skinny islands of vegetation. The wrecks provide shelter for flora and fauna, including fish, beaver and osprey,” NOAA said.

The new national sanctuary is about 40 miles south of Washington DC.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.