Marine Archaeology

During Dive 07 of the Gulf of Mexico 2017 expedition, we explored an unknown shipwreck identified simply as “ID Number 15377.”

Humans and the ocean have been intricately linked throughout history. By working with the science community to discover and characterize the vast and largely unknown repository of submerged cultural resources in U.S. waters and around the world, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) is helping to fill the gaps in our knowledge and understanding of human history and culture.

We provide grants, develop partnerships, and work with the Okeanos Explorer program to support marine archaeology exploration. We place a strong emphasis on expanding the use of emerging undersea technologies and on supporting new methodologies.

OER follows the research standards and management practices of the Federal Archaeology Program and those enumerated in the Annex Rules of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.



Highlights of marine archaeology projects that we have been involved in include:

  • Partnering with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to document the Billy Mitchell Fleet, captured World War I German warships off the Virginia and Maryland coasts. These ships were used as targets to demonstrate the efficacy of naval aerial bombing in the 1920s.
  • Partnering in the investigation of a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico. At over 4,000 meters depth and dating to the early 19th century, the so-called “Monterrey Wreck” is considered the most historically significant site yet discovered in the Gulf and represents the deepest shipwreck excavation in U.S. waters.
  • Supporting work on the continental shelf off Florida’s Gulf Coast to discover evidence of the earliest humans in the New World and their adaptation to rapidly changing climate at the end of the late Pleistocene.
  • Partnering with Dr. Robert Ballard and the Institute for Exploration to discover shipwrecks in the Mediterranean and Black Seas that trace the development of Western Civilization.
  • Supporting an expedition to the Yucatan to explore Mayan use of the marine and coastal environment and to discover the inherent ecological challenges they faced.