Throughout 1)seafaring history, ships and sailors have been lost to storms, accidents and war. Until recently, most of these ships were fragile wooden sailing 2)vessels, their 3)skeletons quickly eaten away by marine 4)organisms. Now, large steel-5)hulled vessels roam the seas. Thousands of these mighty ships have been lost in times of war and in times of peace.
The bones of great metal ships, unlike the wooden vessels of old, survive the ravages of the sea long enough to become home and 6)haven for marine life of all kinds. 7)Shipwrecks are ready-made 8)artificial reefs. They often provide the only hard surface and structure in the midst of a sandy bottom, something many sea creatures need.
This ship has been underwater for only five days. Its surface is still clean. Six weeks later, the wreck is covered with a 9)slimy layer of 10)algae, but it is still recognizable as a ship. Soon, animals that need to attach themselves to a hard surface, like this 11)tunicate and these 12)featherduster worms, make the wreck their home.
In warm waters, 13)coral polyps settle on the wreck and begin the process of building a rock-like 14)crust on the ship. Small fish are attracted and graze on all of these creatures. Larger fish come to feed on the small fish that hide in the 15)wreckage. Eventually, the largest 16)predators are attracted to the 17)abundant life on the shipwreck.
Shipwrecks give us valuable information about how marine plants and animals develop. We know exactly how long this wreck has been under water and how long marine life has been growing on it. Yet even the strongest steel shipwreck will eventually be destroyed by the 18)currents and 19)corrosion. But long after this wreck has been broken apart, it will still act as a reef. Layer upon layer of marine life has formed a structure that is now more natural than artificial, and will remain an island of life under the sea.