On Monday, as Nord Stream explorers probed an area off the coast of Sweden, they discovered a dozen extraordinarily well-preserved ships resting on the floor of the Baltic Sea. The Nord Stream venture, which is majority-owned by the state-run Russian company Gazprom, is working on a 750-mile pipeline from Russia to Germany.
"They used sonar equipment first and discovered some unevenness along the sea bottom ... so they filmed some of the uneven areas, and we could see the wrecks," Peter Norman, a member of Sweden's National Heritage Board, told the Agence France-Presse. "This discovery offers enormous culture-historical value."
Norman told the AFP that most of the ships are thought to be between 300 and 400 years old and could "tell us a lot about everyday life during that time."
More than 3,000 shipwrecks have been discovered in Baltic waters, including the royal warship Vasa, which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628, Norman told the AFP.
The Baltic Sea has been called an "archaeological paradise" because its waters contain so little salt that they don't attract the hull-eating worms that destroy shipwrecks. The sea is also shallow and easier to explore than other bodies of water. In February, Robert Ballard, the U.S. marine scientist who discovered the Titanic, told CBS News that scientists recognize "the discovery potential of the Baltic given its unique characteristics for preservation of ancient wooden ships."
The 12 ships found by Nord Stream are largely intact, though it's not clear yet whether they will be brought to the surface or restored.