New Treasure Map Reveals Long-Lost Shipwrecks Of The Bahamas

It's said that thousands of shipwrecks lay in the Bahamas.


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

Colorful Bluestriped grunt fish swimming across a shipwreck in the Bahamas.

Bluestriped grunt fish swimming across a shipwreck in the Bahamas. 

Image credit: bcampbell65/

For hundreds of years, the Bahamas in the Caribbean has been an invaluable pitstop to some of the most prominent chapters in modern maritime history, from colonist voyages and explorers to pirates and slave traders. Due to all of this seafaring activity, not to mention its treacherous waters, it’s since become home to a wealth of shipwrecks.

As part of The Bahamas Lost Ships Project, a team from Allen Exploration have put together a new map of the wrecks found around Bahamas islands in the western Atlantic Ocean. Remarkably, this is one of the first attempts to fully quantify the total number of wrecks that lie resting on the seabed here. 


“Despite the Bahamas’ depth of maritime history, no study has proactively sought to quantify how many ships foundered in its waters. The treacherous nature of these waters, studded with low-lying reefs and sandbars, and situated on a Caribbean hurricane path, is assumed to have resulted in large numbers of ship losses, perhaps as many as 5,000,” reads the report by Allen Exploration. 

There’s no consensus on the number of ships that have sunk in these waters, but this project found reports of 176 maritime vessels sinking between 1526 and 1976 in archival materials. Of these, just 19 have been located underwater so far. 

“The gap between the 176 maritime casualties seen in the historical record and 19 wrecks AllenX has discovered so far highlights the area’s true potential,” said AllenX Director of Fieldwork, Dan Porter. “Eighty-nine percent of the total inventory is still out there, waiting to be discovered.”

A map showing the shipwrecks around the Bahamas.
Of the 176 maritime vessels the researchers found in archival reports, just 19 wrecks have been found so far.
Image Courtesy of Allen Exploration

Allen Exploration is well-versed in the art of shipwreck hunting. Just last year, their team of underwater explorers discover a gold-laden shipwreck in the Caribbean Sea that fell during the “Golden Age of Piracy”. 


To assess the nature of shipwrecks in the Bahamas, they collaborated with maritime historian James Jenney in 2023. 

Of the 176 shipwrecks they identified, three date to the 16th century, eight to the 17th century, 10 to the 18th century, and 145 to the 19th century. Just two had sunk since World War 2 ended in 1945. The overwhelming majority of these wrecks came from just three countries: the US (52 percent), Britain (24 percent), and Spain (13 percent).

At least 114 of the ships were merchant vessels. After all, the Bahamas was an important hub of transcontinental trade. Coffee, corn, cotton, gunpowder, potatoes, salt, tobacco, and gold were shipped backward and forward across the Atlantic in vast quantities during the Age of Exploration, along with a number of pathogens that proved catastrophic for the native population of the Americas.

The new map and the accompanying findings of this new project will go on display later this year in an interactive exhibition at the Bahamas Maritime Museum.


  • tag
  • shipwreck,

  • history,

  • Bahamas,

  • Age of Exploration,

  • marine archaeology