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Climate Change May Have Aided Discovery of Century-old Shipwreck

The two ships sank in 1871 off the coast of Alaska

Archaeologists have found the 19th-century wreckage of two whaling ships off the coast of Alaska, and climate change may have made the discoveries possible, scientists said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that its members had found the ships, which were part of a whaling fleet of 33 that became stranded and sank in 1871. None of the vessels had been found until now, because melting ice in the area provides easier access to the seabed below.

“With less ice in the Arctic as a result of climate change, archaeologists now have more access to potential shipwreck sites than ever before,” the NOAA said in a statement.

In September of 1871, an ice pack trapped the 33 ships and their whaling crews near the Alaskan coast. The people aboard were eventually rescued, but the ships broke down and sank.

Along with the increased accessibility, NOAA scientists used sonar and sensing technology to determine the “magnetic signature” of the ships, so that their outlines were visible from above water.

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