Remains of 1,200 boats lie beneath the waters off the Wadden Islands, and there are an estimated 30,000 ship wreck sites dotted across the North Sea. As the Leeuwarder Courant reports, many of the sunken ships are also war graves, and one local researcher wants these sites to be better protected.
Stories of divers in the northern Netherlands plundering sunken ships and submarines are common locally. One particularly egregious example is a pair of British World War One submarines – E5 and E3 – that sank north of Schiermonnikoog. The remains of the crew members were never recovered, but divers are known to have entered the submarines to salvage items on board.
Groningen researcher Remy Luttik wants the Dutch national government to do more to protect wreck sites and war graves from being disturbed by grave robbers. “There is no respect for the wishes of the families of the people who have died at these sites. In the end, they are the ones who really matter, not the archaeologists.”
Henk Bos, who is a member of the Zeester dive team in Lauwersoog, argues that divers take pains not to damage the wreck sites and that their activities are monitored by the Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE) of the Netherlands. Willemien van de Langemheen, a representative from the RCE, acknowledges that protecting these sites can be complicated, but emphasises that the sanctity of wrecks containing human remains must be respected.
Map courtesy of Waddenpost