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Centenary of World War I

The Centenary of the First World War is a unique occasion to draw attention to the preservation of World War I underwater cultural heritage and to its message for peace and reconciliation.

An estimated 10 000 wrecks from the First World War can be found on seabeds around the world. This includes warships as well as civilian vessels, sunk by accident or as victims of the naval blockades. Some of these wrecks are well preserved, but many have been destroyed or severely damaged by non-scientific salvage, commercial exploitation, looting, scrapping or trawling. 

Despite the fact that this heritage bears witness to one of the most defining conflicts in recent history, underwater cultural heritage from World War I has not yet been comprehensively studied. UNESCO therefore calls on its Member States, and on society in general, to help preserve this unique submerged legacy - a legacy which is at once a powerful reminder of war, and a convincing voice for peace.  

From 2014 onwards, World War I’s submerged heritage will begin to fall under the protection of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.



UNESCO Initiatives on Underwater Cultural Heritage from the First World War:

Future UNESCO Projects on Underwater Cultural Heritage from the First World War:

  • Publication ‘Underwater Cultural heritage from World War I’

    A book featuring contributions of international experts on World War I underwater heritage is currently in the final stages of creation. It will also serve as resource book for the education initiative.
  • Virtual Access Project - the Danton

    In collaboration with DRASSM (French Department of Underwater Archaeological Research) and the French firm Dassault 3D Systèmes a 3D virtualization of the Danton, a sunken French battleship from WWI will be produced. This shall increase responsible access to underwater heritage and the understanding of the implications of war to foster support for peace. 
  • Exhibit on African and Asian Involvement

    African and Asian involvement in WWI was very significant, but is often little known. Their contribution is particularly well illustrated by two important wrecks, the SS Mendi and the Athos. In collaboration with the Strandingsmuseet in Jutland, Denmark, an exposition on African and Asian involvement in WWI will be created. The exhibition will later also be shown in the Cambodian National Museum.
  • Jutland Underwater Cultural Heritage Conference

    In cooperation with the Strandingsmuseum in Jutland, Denmark, a conference will be organised to highlight the underwater heritage from World War I, and to promote reconciliation.

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