NOAA designates Mallows Bay in Potomac River sanctuary to protect Ghost Fleet

July 12, 2019

In Mallows Bay in the Potomac River, 40 miles south of D.C. are 118 WWI-era U.S. Emergency Fleet Corporation steamships partially submerged in the water.

How did so many of these ships end up in Mallows Bay? The Ghost Fleet of more than 100 wooden steamships were built in response to threats from World War I-era German U-boats. They never saw action, but the sheer number of them demonstrates the strategy and effort of American soldiers during WWI.

NOAA, the state of Maryland, and Charles County have worked together for the past 5 years to have the historic ships and approximately 18 square miles around them designated as a sanctuary.

Photo courtesy of NOAA

"The designation of Mallows Bay as a national marine sanctuary is an exciting milestone for NOAA and an opportunity for the public to celebrate and help protect this piece of our nation's rich maritime history," said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. "We look forward to working with the state of Maryland, Charles County and other local partners to foster education and research partnerships as well as support and enhance local recreation and tourism along this historic stretch of the Potomac River."

Photo courtesy of NOAA

Photo courtesy of NOAA

"We are thrilled by NOAA's announcement of the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary designation," said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. "Preserving our history, heritage, and natural resources have always been a priority for our administration and designating this national treasure as a marine sanctuary is yet another example of our stewardship; and will ensure that people from both Maryland and beyond will have the opportunity to experience this amazing site for years to come."

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