Titanic! It sure is relishing to sail through to the memories of the movie – the love of Jack and Rose, the infrastructure and the luxuries of the ship, and the sailing journey that changed the lives of many. The movie has had a huge impact on us despite its tragic ending. If given a chance to relive the real remains of the movie underwater, how many of us would rush to dive into the North Atlantic to tour the Titanic and let ourselves connect to the past? The sight would surely delight us with loads of exciting stuff to help us understand the ship’s history better and help us discover facts that movies and books still need to reveal. The saddening end of the Titanic is one of the many reasons why we are here now.  

An overview of UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage - Sheet1
Underwater Image of the Titanic, 2018_©Oceangate
An overview of UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage - Sheet2
Sunken settlements of Atlantis_©Getty Images

The oceans, rivers, and lakes have played a major role in human lives since ancient times. The legends woven around them have been observed and passed on to generations. They’ve been means of settlement, occupation, livelihood, and preservation of our cultural heritage. They hide from us many unknown and underestimated priceless heritage like the sunken Titanic and the long-lost cities of Atlantis, Port Royal, Dwarka, and many more.

Conserve what we Love.

The famous Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau stated, “We love what we marvel at and protect what we love.

An overview of UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage - Sheet3
Underwater cultural Heritage, Hawaiian Islands_©Zentacle

Natural and man-made causes threaten underwater vestiges. Global warming, water acidification, and pollution have naturally weakened them. In contrast, looting, commercial exploitation, industrial trawling, coastal development, and exploitation of natural resources and the seabed have contributed to man’s derailing efforts to protect them. To conserve natural heritages, researchers and archaeologists from UNESCO have developed and implemented a convention in 2001 to protect Underwater Cultural Heritage. UNESCO signed its treaty in November 2001. And since then, it has become a legal framework of reference for the protection of underwater cultural heritage and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021. Eight Mediterranean states, including Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Spain, France, Italy, Morocco, and Tunisia, coordinate and work together on the project.


The beds of our oceans have years-old settlements of wrecked ships, sunken cities, prehistoric artwork, treasures, sacrificial and burial sites, and old ports that cover the ocean floors. These settlements are potential resources that could help us retell numerous historical events. Archaeologists are still exploring these resources to educate the current and future generations and find out more that could add to our existing historical stories. The convention aims to protect traces of human existence with cultural, historical, and archaeological characteristics and has been underwater for over 100 years. It provides customary frameworks to raise awareness and seeks to combat illegal looting and pirating that exist as threats. It also sets out the basic principles of protection, providing a detailed State cooperative system and practical rules for this heritage’s treatment, research, and protection. 

With UNESCO being an International body, the member states have agreed to work towards the legal and physical protection of sunken cultural property within their jurisdiction and the high seas while also encouraging research on them. UNESCO believes it is vital to make the treasures accessible to the general public –a fact that might excite us. Specific archaeological sites, like the submerged Roman villas in Baiae, Italy, already permit visitors to view their underwater legacies.               

The convention has been doing a great job since 2001. They rallied the United States and the UNESCO partners to raise public awareness on preventing looting from underwater sites. A scientific and Technical advisory body of 14 archaeologists was created to carry out field missions and support state parties in their effort to preserve their underwater cultural heritage. UNESCO has also established a University Twinning Network of Underwater Archeology between 30 universities and a vast network of accredited NGOs to help implement the convention. Recently, UNESCO has also written a Code of ethics for divers to foster responsible behaviour among the general public.

Mission of Success 

An overview of UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage - Sheet4
Skerki Bank mission_©Angle Fiter UNESCO

An archaeological mission under the auspices of UNESCO was conducted for 14 days at Skerki Bank, Tunisia, and Sicilian Channel, Italy, in the Mediterranean. For the first time, scientists from the eight-member States modelled the shipwrecks and improved the mapping of the area as a part of the conservation. The team used two robots or remotely operated vehicles adapted to the geographical and morphologically submerged areas. The robots were used to document the. Shipwrecks on the Italian continental shelf. Archaeologists were delighted to discover that the shipwrecks and artefacts were not impacted by sedimentation, bio-erosion, or human activities. They were the same as they were 30 years ago. The archaeologists plan to conduct their survey through scientific conferences and follow-up missions.

Launching ROV Arthur DRASSM_©UNESCO

Twenty years from 2001, we’ve already reached the era of underwater robots for research. In another 20 years from now, humans will have already found the needed technological advancements to construct structures in the deep ocean beds to make our childhood fantasies, like visiting an underwater museum around the ship remains of Titanic, come true.  


UNESCO,(2022). Successful archaeological mission for UNESCO and 8 Member States in the Mediterranean.[Online]                                                                                                                 Available at: successful-archaeological-mission-unesco-and-8-member-states-mediterranean [Accessed on 11th Feb, 2023]    

UNESCO,(2022). Underwater Heritage [Online]  

Available at:Underwater-heritage [Accessed on 11th Feb, 2023] 

Wikipedia(2022). Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage [Online] Available at: Convention_on_the_Protection_of_the_Underwater_Cultural_Heritage [Accessed on 11th Feb, 2023]

Oceangate. Underwater Image of the Titanic, 2018 [Photograph]                                         Getty Images. Sunken settlements of Atlantis [Photograph]                                           GregMcFall. Underwater cultural Heritage, Hawaiian Islands [Photograph]                             Angel Fiter UNESCO. Skerki Bank mission [Photograph]                                                   UNESCO. Launching ROV Arthur DRASSM [Photograph]


An architectural graduate with a vision to create artful and functional environments. She has a strong inclination towards exploring and interpreting the aesthetics of people, places, and buildings. With a writing niche, she believes in the power of words to emote.