Why finding shipwrecks has never been easier

It’s a great time to become a pirate — or a scientist.

If your childhood dream job was archaeologist, marine biologist, or pirate — we’re about to make your day.

A rusty shipwreck sticking out of the water in front of a hill.

Deep-sea exploration experts say it’s a great time to go looking for shipwrecks, per The New York Times.

And technology is playing a big role in treasure-hunting’s heyday:

  • Autonomous underwater vehicles can cover large sections of ocean floor and travel to locations that were previously inaccessible — like 25 miles below an ice sheet.
  • Satellites can spot shipwrecks from space by the plumes of sediment that surround a wreck.
  • The digitization of historical archives and increased accessibility of telepresence systems, which livestream images of the ocean floor on the internet, let more people discover wrecks from the comfort of their homes.

But there’s another unfortunate reason that shipwreck discoveries have become more common: climate change. Rising sea levels, eroding shorelines, and powerful storms are increasingly washing shipwrecks ashore.

X-ploring marks the spot

More shipwrecks are also being discovered because, well, more people are looking for them — or stumbling upon them.

Private companies and research groups are exploring the ocean floor to map the world’s seabed while others are surveying for oil and gas leases, pipelines, and cables.

Some big names in tech and business have set their sights on the ocean floor:

  • The Schmidt Ocean Institute is a nonprofit research organization founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy Schmidt.
  • Billionaire investor Ray Dalio founded ocean exploration company OceanX with his son.

And then, of course, there are those who are not experts but tempted by the pull of extreme tourism — which sometimes ends in tragedy, like the OceanGate sub.

Before you go diving for gold, know that finding shipwrecks has become more about studying history and less about stealing buried treasure. Those who do find riches often end up in legal disputes with nations, rarely winning.

England, for example, is taking no chances with its treasure: It’s testing out new forensic marking technology to protect 57 of its shipwrecks from thieves.

Get the 5-minute news brief keeping 2.5M+ innovators in the loop. Always free. 100% fresh. No bullsh*t.