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Sites of Extraordinary Character

Department of the Navy Sunken Military Craft Sites of Extraordinary Character

INTRODUCTION: Developments in the field of ocean exploration have led to the discovery of a number of prominent WW-II era U.S. Navy wreck sites in the deep ocean over the last several years. A series of these wreck sites have appeared exceedingly well preserved, unaffected by human activities or dynamic ocean environments. The wrecks are comparable to an untouched lunar landing site and provide unique opportunities for site research, commemoration, and preservation. In considering the condition, remoteness, stable environment, and importance of these sites in terms of historic value, as well as the final resting places of hundreds of Sailors and Marines, NHHC has developed a policy for sites of Extraordinary Character that are to be maintained undisturbed to the greatest degree possible in furtherance of their continued preservation.

The U.S Navy is responsible for the management, research, interpretation, and preservation of nearly 3,000 shipwrecks. Only a handful qualify for this designation. However, though this policy has been inspired by the recent WW-II era discoveries located in deep water, sites from or in other contexts may in the future be added to the list.

DEFINITION OF EXTRAORDINARY CHARACTER: A designation bestowed upon a sunken or terrestrial military craft that reflects a combination of iconic status, association with a figure or event of great importance or prominence in U.S. naval history, association with the significant loss of human life, sufficient archaeological integrity and presence on the seafloor that allows for the non-intrusive documentation and interpretation of the site, and existence within an immediate environment that is characterized by a minimal threat potential for human disturbance and particularly effective preservative qualities such as those found in the deep ocean.

POLICY: The designation of a Department of the Navy sunken or terrestrial military craft as a site of Extraordinary Character is to be utilized sparingly and is to be long-standing, barring any substantive and material changes to the factors associated with the wreck site. Maintaining sites of Extraordinary Character undisturbed to the greatest degree possible means that disturbance does not serve the best interests of the sunken or terrestrial military craft in question. Therefore, consistent with 32 CFR 767.5, NHHC will deny any full-scale permit application proposing an activity that would disturb such a site. This determination does not apply to Special Use Permit applications, whose activities are by definition minimally intrusive.

LIST OF SUNKEN MILITARY CRAFT OF EXTRAORDINARY CHARACTER: The list of sunken and terrestrial military craft designated as sites of Extraordinary Character will be maintained here and on the Permitting Program page. The list may be updated periodically to reflect any changes as additional wreck sites are discovered or considered for Extraordinary Character status or in the instance where the condition of a listed site materially degrades. 

Published: Wed Dec 27 16:01:27 EST 2023