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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 July 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 13 JULY 2019 15 TRAVEL The Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports at the Conference “BLUEMED project in Alonissos” 6 April 2019, PHOTO: P. MANTIS Greece’s rich underwater heritage has long been hidden from view, off-limits to all but a select few, mainly archaeologists – but all that is about to change. Exploring the remains of a massive cargo ship that changed archaeologists’ understanding of shipbuilding in antiquity. PHOTO: Y. ISSARIS Diver explores a remarkable ancient shipwreck near the northern Greek island of Alonissos. PHOTO: K. MENEMENOGLOU thoughts which I was simply not expecting," Kostas said. "Somehow, they channelled a deep emotional connection to the past. I could imagine the cargo laden galley ploughing the Aegean by sail and oar as men attempted to tame the sea and use it for their betterment. I could envisage sailors eagerly waiting to reach landfall so they could return to their loved ones. I could understand the rising confidence the ancient Greeks felt at being able to rationalise and truly understand the world around them. They were the very first to use their intellect to break free from the shackles of mysticism. "To approach everything with logical, pragmatic eyes. And by doing so, they created the basis of the modern world we live in today." While the exact circumstances surrounding the wreck remain unknown, burnt pieces of timber and ash have been discovered, indicating that a fire was involved. Whether this was accidental or caused by attack is undetermined. What is of far greater interest to archaeologists, is the sheer size of the ship. Until the Peristera find, historians considered 1st century BC Roman vessels carrying around 1,500 amphoras, or about 70 tons, to be the super-large container ships of ancient times. However, the Peristera wreck is more than twice that size, suggesting that Greek ship building technology was far more advanced much earlier than anyone had thought. Only very limited excavation work has been carried out at the site, so there are other mysteries to the Peristera wreck puzzle. One is the possibility of it carrying more than wine. Somewhere under the massive pile of amphoras might be a less conspicuous cargo. A few personal items such as cups and plates have already been recovered, but perhaps there are bronze artifacts or other treasures which can only be imagined. Finding out represents the fundamental dilemma of archaeology and a major point of contention amongst the archaeologists themselves. Further excavation would reveal more artefacts and offer more insights into the past, including the shipbuilding techniques which allowed the ancient Greeks to build such an unexpectedly large vessel. It might even uncover the skeletal remains of her crew. However, it would also destroy the pristine nature and dignity of this memorial to our collective past. It would also compromise this new initiative of letting the public experience the majesty of the wreck for themselves. "The dive was a very humbling experience. And as I hovered near that spectacular mound of 2,400 year history, it made me feel proud to be part of it all. I consider myself fortunate to live in an era that is both curious and technologically advanced enough to allow such investigations, not to mention immensely privileged to be able to witness the past with my very own eyes," Kostas said. The goal of the new initiative is to allow recreational divers to literally immerse themselves in maritime heritage that has been denied to them until now. Judging from Kostas' reaction to the experience, I would say that it is already a resounding success. * The background research for this article was thanks to Dimitris Evangelopoulos and Paris Sofos. This sunken aircraft lies off the coast of Makronissos. The magical world of wreck diving G reece's diving destinations are a look into history as much as they are an exploration of marine nature. The country's seabed is a museum of wrecks from fighter planes that tore the skies to naval submarines from World War II. Around 500 of these modern wrecks are open for exploration and are ideal for divers and historians alike. Perseus Submarine at Cephalonia The British naval submarine hit an Italian mine on 6 December, 1941, while floating off Cephaonia's Katelios area. The tragedy's sole survivor was English stoker John Capes. Nobody believed his account of the incident that took 60 crew members' lives until the wreck was discovered. The maximum depth is at 52 metres, and divers can see the bow and torpedoes, steering wheel, propellers and controls in tact. Queen Olga of Leros The second and last destroyer of her class - built for the Royal Hellenic Navy in Glasgow before World War II - escorted convoys between Egypt and Greece during the GrecoItalian War in 1940-1941. Together with two British destroys, she helped destroy a small German convoy in the islands before ferrying troops and supplies to the small British garrison on the island of leros. After completing such a mission, she was sunk by German bombers in Lakki harbour on 26 September with the loss of 72 men. A monument for the lost crew has been erected at Lakki. Divers may see the holes in the funnels caused by the attack. Liberty at Pserimos The bow of the sunken freighter built in the USA during World War II can be explored by snorkellers with just a basic mask. It lies just off Vathi Bay at the small Dodecanese island of Pserimos. A portion of the wreck protrudes from the surface where it sank on 26 January, 1997, after the captain lost control. It lies rolled over to the left. It is one of a number of wrecks in the area. Kyra Eleni at Patroklos island The freighter rests on the seabed of the Saronic Gulf opposite Sounio on the southern side of Patroklos island. Divers of all levels go to see it, and though they can explore the bow and stern there is no access to the interior. Panormitis at Kalymnos Panormitis is for experienced divers only. The passenger ship lies sunken at a depth of 32 metres near Telendos, close to Kalymnos, and 100 metres away from Epano, an uninhabited rocky islet. It was known for its epic Rhodes-Castellorizo voyage in 1962 transporting a sick woman in need of medical treatment when it battled with gale force winds measuring 11 Beaufort. It didn't sink then, however it's finale came in 1966 when it struck an islet from Leros to Kalymnos. All on board were rescued. Patris Shipwreck at Kea The paddle steamer lies sunken at the southwestern part of the island when it slammed onto the reef at Koundouros bay on 28 February, 1868 due to a captain's error. All 500 passengers en route from Piraeus to Syros were rescued. The steamer lies cut in two, each part within short distance from each other. One part lies in shallow waters at a depth of 18 metres and is easily accessible, whereas the other half is at 35 metres and is accessible to more experienced divers. Piper Aircraft at Makronissos The sunken aircraft at the northern end of Makronissos can be seen by snorkellers wearing a basic mask. It went down on October 2, 1988 due to a fuel supply problem and continues to remain intact with the words 'Visit Greece' visible on the left back side of the aircraft. Beaufighter at Naxos Half a mile off Cape Kouroupas, the World War II is one of several such models that went down. Its propeller was most likely still rotating while sinking. The crew on board was rescued and the firing apparatus is still loaded with ammunition. Cassandra at South Evian Gulf A trail of scattered parts lead to the wreck at the uninhabited islet of Platourada where it sank on 28 February, 1973, after the captain left the control room for his dinner, leaving the assistant sailor at the wheel. These days, divers can descend 20 metres to 32 metres to explore the wreck.
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