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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shipworms threated underwater shipwrecks

SHIPWORMS, God love 'em. Because the authorities in the Baltic don't. For these pesky wood boring marine molluscs are munching shipwrecks at an increasing rate.

Now a new project has been set up to tackle the little blighters.

Shipworms require a relatively high level of salt for their activity, and the Baltic Sea with its low salinity, has provide natural protection of the underwater cultural heritage for centuries.

Now scientists say have recorded them spreading into the area, probably as a result of climatic changes. And with an estimated 100,000 well-preserved shipwrecks and other maritime related constructions at the bottom of the Baltic able to provide archaeological info it is feared the shipworms could destroy significant finds.

Wreck Protect, which is funded by the European Commission, will now examine the growing spread of Shipworm into the Baltic Sea, and develop guidelines for protection of the submerged cultural heritage.

The very aggressive marine borers can normally destroy wooden material exposed to seawater within a very short period of time; years or even months.

According to research, the coastal waters of eastern Denmark has seen increased activity of shipworm and a study has shown they are active in the coastal waters of northern Germany.

The main objective of WreckProtect is to secure the preservation of two important objects of cultural heritage in marine environments, shipwrecks and submerged archaeological settlements

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