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The ghost ship in Mallows Bay.

Photographer/fisherman Peter Turcik fishing on Little Blackwater River.

Ghost Ship

An unexpected marine sanctuary lands on a stamp

A series of 16 new Forever stamps honors the National Marine Sanctuary System. They depict coral reefs, fish, otters, seabirds—and, memorably, the skeleton of a derelict ship. It rises out of Mallows Bay, across from Quantico on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. The haunting image was captured by local photographer/fisherman Peter Turcik (above, on Little Blackwater River). He learned about more than 100 such decaying vessels, scuttled during World War I, while on assignment for the Chesapeake Conservancy.

Eventually, the ships—dubbed the Ghost Fleet—evolved into artificial reefs that protect fish, birds, turtles and other species. And in 2019, the former ships’ graveyard was designated a national marine sanctuary.

When shooting his photo of Mallows Bay, “I laid down flat in my kayak to get close to the water,” Turcik recalls. “The angle made the ship look quite tall and proud.”

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