Image of a diver swimming underwater and looking for artifacts

J. Mendoza 


R.1, R.3, R.4, L.2

The Shipwreck Detective

Peter Campbell solves history’s mysteries by exploring underwater.

Courtesy of Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell

How does Peter Campbell get to work sometimes? He swims there!

    But he’s not looking for a new kind of fish or studying sharks. He’s hunting for shipwrecks and sunken cities. 

    Archaeology is the study of human history. Many archaeologists work on land. 

    They dig to find artifacts, or human-made objects like tools and pottery. These objects help us learn about the past. 

    As an underwater archaeologist, Peter does all of this—a hundred feet below sea level. We asked him about his job. 

L. Pape

Peter holds a bronze helmet that belonged to a Roman soldier. It is more than 1,700 years old!

Did you always want to be an underwater archaeologist? 

    As a kid, I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist. I grew up around the Great Lakes and loved swimming and exploring in the water. When I learned that underwater archaeology existed, I knew I had to do it!

How do you prepare for a typical dive? 

    It’s important to set specific goals. When you’re underwater, there’s a time limit. Sometimes, you have only five minutes to find what you’re looking for. You may have to carefully move rocks and sand out of the way to get to an artifact. Every second counts.

How deep do you dive?

    I can dive to about 165 feet. Beyond that, we work with expert divers or use robots.

Vasilis Mentogianis

Taking a Deep Dive
Peter swims over a shipwreck near Greece. He often looks for containers called amphoras.

What are you looking for when you explore a shipwreck? 

    We want clues that can tell us about the time period. For example, a ship made from wood might be older than one made from iron. We also look for ceramic containers called amphoras. These were used by many ancient cultures to carry goods, like oil or wine. Each region had its own style. Finding one can tell us when a wreck happened or where a ship was from. 

Are there any mysteries you’re dying to solve? 

    There’s a ship that sank off the coasts of Cyprus and Lebanon. It was full of ancient artifacts. No one knows why it sank or where it went. It would be incredible to find it. 

Why is your job important? 

    The world’s oceans hold a record of human history. So many things—from ships to cities—have been submerged in water and forgotten. There is so much to find underwater. We know less about the ocean than we do about the surface of the moon! 

Mini Skills Workout

What to do: Write your answers to the questions below on a separate sheet of paper. 

Peter says that many things have been submerged in water. What do you think submerged means?

How does Peter reach items that are deeper than he can dive? 

Find a sentence in which Peter describes a clue to a ship’s age.

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