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“Superior, they said, never gives up her dead."

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Oh, but it does.

One day, all the seafaring vessels that have slumbered underneath the ocean return to the surface, and they do it with no prior warning.

Skipjacks run aground on sandbars suddenly right themselves and are no longer just rotting slowly at an angle; they point their ruined masts toward the sky as they slip back out into the Chesapeake Bay with crab pots in tow.

Spanish galleons appear in the Caribbean. They announce their arrival with the sound of stolen gold and broken promises.

The North Atlantic fills once again with convoys of merchant vessels and cargo ships and military escorts, marred by gaping torpedo wounds. They are shadowed by rust-riveted submarines that will never stop patrolling.

Hobby fishermen in Whitefish Bay report the overwhelming stench of iron ore and smoke as the Edmund Fitzgerald sails toward Detroit to finally complete her delivery.

Iron Bottom Sound is a silent graveyard no more. Destroyers and cruisers surface for the first time in seventy years, nearly bumping shoulders with carriers the size of a football field that creak with the weight of barnacle-crusted Wildcats and Zeroes.

Players on the Old Head Golf Course forget their game entirely when the Lusitania emerges from the floor of the Irish Sea, draped in a shawl made from hundreds of fishing nets and wreathed in cold mist. 

SM U-20, which sent it there with a well-aimed torpedo, has only its conning tower left. From its spot on the front lawn of a Danish museum devoted to shipwrecks, a periscope fixes its eye on the water only meters away, and it begins to scan. It does not stop scanning.

The scattered remains of the Spanish Armada begin to assemble once more, making their determined way toward the Thames.

The Mary Rose breaks free of her dry berth in Portsmouth. Her curators think that they can hear a sigh of relief as she slides back into the water.

Phoenician, Egyptian, Greek, Persian, Roman merchant cogs nearly choke the Mediterranean, wooden skeletons rattling rows upon rows of amphorae as they sail on, until nothing else can be heard for miles.

The Titanic turns toward New York Harbor, pouring steam through where her funnels used to be, where she will wait patiently for a dock to accommodate her splintered halves.

Paddlewheel boats on the Mississippi, canoes in Polynesia, junks in Guangzhou and Hong Kong, tiny fishing boats and oil tankers and ferries—they are all back. They are all here and accounted for. No river or bay or marsh or inlet or canal or sea has ever been without a boat or a ship to claim as its own, but this can no longer be.

No more, these wrecks have decided.

Bells recovered from wrecks all over the world and carefully displayed in museums begin to ring simultaneously; those same wrecks’ boat wheels given similar places of honor start spinning and spinning in the effort to remain on course.

We once referred to these vessels as having been “lost,” but they have been there this whole time. They were never lost at all. And now they are coming home, just as they promised. We must make ready for the ghosts who are ghosts no more.

Can’t you hear them as they approach port?