Wartime correlates with higher count of shipwrecks due to war violence, and this violence lingers even after the war ended.
When examining the trends of the causes of shipwrecks, it is not a surprise to see a declining trend over time; technology advancements have guaranteed this trend. This bar chart examines a century worth of data starting from 1900 to 1999, encompassing both the WWI and WWII time period.
The first dramatic spike in the data
There are three spikes in the number of record of shipwrecks in the timeline. The first and biggest spike was in 1905, however, this is not related to any war or significant events in history – rather, this is the result of the data collection process. After interviewing a source from New Jersey Maritime Museum who was involved in creating the dataset, we found that this dramatic increase of shipwreck records was because the local government had provided incentive for the museum to be thorough in keeping records of the shipwrecks found.
How the war is reflected in the data
The two smaller spikes in the number of records following 1905, however, represented the first and second world war, in 1918 and 1942 respectively. These years are characterized with cause of loss related to war violence. In 1942, war-violence related causes include being torpedoed, depth charged, burned, or even striking a underwater mine, among many other things.
“In the winter of 1942, German submarines began operating off the east coast of the United States, and the navy found itself woefully short of patrol vessels. Not only were allied ships being torpedoed, but eight German saboteurs were landed on Long Island, and others were landed in Maine, with a mission to cause as much destruction as they could” – Huge Greenway, World Policy Journal
The long-lasting effect of war: explosives remained in the waters 40 years later
An interesting thing to note is that prior to the world wars, the most common causes of loss are ships being foundered, stranded, or striking an external object. Over time, these causes declined as technology improved due to production efforts for the war all across U.S., including in New Jersey. However, notice that once again war violence related causes have a significant presence in the reasons behind shipwrecks in the year 1980 onwards. The reason behind this is the explosives left undetected from the war periods, which had struck some unfortunate ships. This provides yet another evidence that the impacts of the war extend beyond the war period.