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Celebrate National Oceans Month!

Celebrate National Oceans Month in June by visiting archeological places that tell about the historical relationships between people and the sea. Whether along the shore or completely submerged, archeology demonstrates that Americans and their visitors have drawn on the ocean for fun, transportation, trade, and food for thousands of years.

Something that people today share with people in the past is oceanside settlement. Some found a shortcut across the Pacific via the Bering Land Bridge before setting up places to live. Others gathered shellfish and fish for food and to make jewelry, trade items, and other objects, such as the Coast Miwok who lived at Point Reyes in California and the Calusa at the Florida Everglades. For some communities, the ocean was visible but inaccessible, like the community at Kalaupapa in Hawaii who suffered from Hansen's disease or the prisoners at Alcatraz Island in California.

Oceans were integral in the cultural geography of war. Places such Fort Sumter in South Carolina, where the Civil War began, or the sites that reflect World War II, such as War of the Pacific in Guam, which saw intense World War II battles, or the USS Arizona, sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor, archeologically document the significance of the ocean in wartime.

And, of course, underwater archeologists have found all kinds of shoreline detritus and ships. Archeologists found wharves, landings, and docks among shipwrecks in the James River off Jamestown Island. Sometimes storms or natural border island processes reveal shipwrecks, such as at Cape Cod. Learn more without donning an oxygen tank and snorkel at Dry Tortugas, or take an electronic field trip to Biscayne.

The NPS and the Federal Archeology Program work to preserve and protect underwater archeological resources. Learn more about these efforts to preserve a submerged legacy on federal lands, as well as state-to-state. The NPS Maritime Heritage Program focuses on cultural resources amid water.

Want to learn more about underwater archeologists, what they do, and how they do it? Check out the podcasts and conservation advice on the NPS National Center for Preservation Technology and Training website. Visit the online Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

To visit archeological places along - or in - the ocean, start with the Find a Park tool. Follow the path of Samuel de Champlain and keep an eye out for the new maritime heritage trail at Biscayne. Or, look at National Register of Historic Places Travel Itineraries, such as Florida Shipwrecks, Along the Florida to Georgia Coast, World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Maritime History of Massachusetts.

  • Archeology at Kalaupapa. [photo]
  • USS Arizona Memorial. [photo]
  • Jamestown
  • Underwater archeology in the states.
  • Mandalay wreck at Biscane.

TSM/MJB