The Baltic Sea has existed for about 10 000 years, and there have been human settlements along its shores throughout this time – whose inhabitants have sailed, hunted and warred in the Baltic.Traces of these activities remain under the sea. Wrecks and other remains are preserved there. They make up a cultural heritage – a memory of our history.
A museum under the sea
Nowhere else in the world are there as many well preserved wooden wrecks as in the Baltic. So far, we know of about 20 000 remains of ships and smaller boats, but not all the wrecks have been discovered yet. Archaeologists believe there may be more than 100 000 of them! That makes the Baltic a museum under the sea. Information about the wrecks found so far is available in the Fornsök database.
Free from shipworms
The reason the wrecks are so well preserved is that shipworms do not like the brackish waters of the Baltic. Shipworms are actually a type of small clam that lays its larvae in wood. In salt water, wrecks can disappear in a short time since the larvae eat the wood. In the Baltic, wrecks can look just as they did when they sank, even though several hundred years have passed.
Museum for divers
Only divers can visit and look at the wrecks at the bottom of the Baltic, but the waters of the Baltic are relatively shallow, so recreational divers can reach many of them. If one hundred years have passed since the ship sank, the wreck is counted among permanent ancient remains and thus protected by the Cultural Heritage Act. That also means that unless you have obtained permission to do so, no one may touch, alter or damage it. Many interesting younger wrecks are also fragile, so divers need to be careful.