As social creatures with wanderlust coded deep in our DNA, we humans have always sought to explore the world and create networks of travel and trade. But things don’t always go well, especially when we take to the open water. Since our ancestors first ventured offshore more than 10,000 years ago, countless vessels—and lives—have been lost to the waves.
Today, the thousands of shipwrecks that have been identified worldwide hold an allure for many would-be explorers. There is something particularly poignant about seeing the ribs of a broken hull poking up from the seafloor, or witnessing the advance of mussels and other aquatic animals across a deck. Even with appropriate dive training and modern equipment, however, many shipwrecks are dangerous or inaccessible.
Here are 18 sites that don’t require scuba tanks or snorkels to visit, where you can bear witness to, and show respect for, those who sallied forth. (Shipwrecks are fragile and can be unstable, and many of them are associated with loss of life. As with any historical site, obey all regulations regarding access, do not touch or take any material, and be aware of incoming tides, shifting sands, or other potential hazards.) And, if you’re landlocked, have no fear: Options exist for visiting some shipwreck sites from the comfort of your couch.