On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designated the 18-square-mile area a national marine sanctuary—the first in nearly two decades. The Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary holds not only remains of the “ghost fleet” of WWI vessels, but also Civil War-era shipwrecks, and Native American archaeological sites dating back 12,000 years.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the U.S. Emergency Fleet Corporation, which began building hundreds of ships to combat the destructive German U-boats sinking merchant and passenger ships in the Atlantic. Plagued by mechanical and construction issues, none of the ships actually made it to Europe during the war. After, most of them were moved along the Potomac to be salvaged by a local company that later abandoned them in Mallows Bay. Despite their place on the sidelines, the ships “reflected the massive national wartime effort that drove the expansion and economic development of communities and related maritime service industries,” NOAA noted in the sanctuary announcement.
Per: National Geographic