Submerged Cultural Resource Management

Preserving and Interpreting Our Maritime Heritage

James D. Spirek,

Submerged Cultural Resource Management: Preserving and Interpreting Our Maritime Heritage
Writing to the governor of Florida in September of 1964, the president of the Florida Keys Underwater Guides Association expressed concern about proposed salvage operations on the shipwrecks of the Spanish fleet of 1733. The Guides went on record to ask the governor for help "to preserve these historical wrecks for the present and future enjoyment of the public. " Subsequently, a similar request was sent to the governor by the Florida Upper Keys Chamber of Commerce, which wrote that "we feel strongly that the historic interest and attractions for our growing influx of skindivers produced by these wrecks is much more valuable to the State of Florida than the 25% share gained from salvage of these old wrecks and their treasures. " Shortly thereafter, the Monroe County Advertising Commission wrote the governor that "the historic wrecks off our coasts are a part of our heritage to be enjoyed and seen and not to be despoiled. [Aside from] the discovery of occasional "pieces of eight" and/or artifacts by individuals or the hope of such discoveries, the underwater beauty of a wreck housing hundreds of fish or a mound of cannon balls is directly beneficial to our economy while concerted salvage operations would destroy permanently the lure of these wrecks. " But the notion that these underwater sites would best serve the public as historical and environmental attractions rather than to be picked apart under state supervision for personal trophies was an idea way ahead of its time.

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