Integrity of Heritage Resources
Flower Garden Banks

3D image of wreck of USS Hatteras
3D image of wreck of USS Hatteras generated by BlueView mapping data. Credit: ONMS, NOAA

Why is it a concern?

Sea level 13,000 years ago was –60 to –70 m. This would have put the paleo-shoreline between Stetson Bank and the Flower Garden Banks. East and West Flower Garden Banks would have been islands within sight of the shoreline and Stetson bank would have been a prominent 30 m high mountain on the coastal plain. Archeological sites found in Texas and other parts of the Gulf coast date back at least 13,000 years. This would suggest that humans could have been present in the vicinity of the sanctuary at that time. The large coastal plain and ocean would have provided the resources sought by these early inhabitants of the region.

The lack of shallow reefs or obstructions that could threaten ships results in a lessened probability of historic shipwrecks. The primary historical activity at the Flower Garden Banks has been fishing. The banks were fished for snapper and grouper beginning in the 1880s by commercial hook-and-line-fishermen. Cultural remains and/or historic shipwrecks associated with late 19th- or early 20th-century maritime activity could possibly exist at Flower Garden Banks, but have not yet been reported by divers.

The sanctuary has partnered with the ONMS’s Maritime Heritage Program as well as regional institutions to study historic shipwrecks in the Gulf including the survey and documentation of the Civil War vessel USS Hatteras 20 miles off Galveston as well as deep remote surveys of three early 19th century sailing ships in the Gulf of Mexico. The northwest Gulf was and continues to be important to the maritime economy of the Gulf. The Monterrey Shipwrecks are tangible links to trade and life on the Gulf in the early 1800s. The USS Hatteras tells an important story of Galveston’s role in the Civil War. The submerged archeological and maritime heritage sites that are yet to be discovered in the NW Gulf of Mexico give ONMS an important ongoing and future role in discovering, documenting and preserving the human story of the Gulf of Mexico.

Overview of Research

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is actively seeking research partners to conduct work connected to Integrity of Heritage Resources as a sentinel issue.

Project Name PI and contacts Links

USS Hatteras Survey

Dr. James Delgado

Monterrey Wreck (Site 15577): Catalyzing Research on an Early 19th Century Wooden Shipwreck Discovered in the Gulf of Mexico

Dr. James Delgado


Science Needs and Questions

  • None at this time

Education and Outreach Material

Fathoming Our Past: Historical Contexts of the National Marine Sanctuaries


Terrell, Bruce G. ed. "Fathoming Our Past; Historical Contexts of the National Marine Sanctuaries." NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program