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article imageScientists discover over 40 preserved shipwrecks in Black Sea

By Karen Graham     Oct 25, 2016 in Science
A group of maritime archaeologists studying sea level rises in the Black Sea during the last Ice Age uncovered over 40 shipwrecks this year, declaring their find as a “complete bonus.”
The Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project has been mapping the Black Sea floor as part of a study to understand how quickly sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age, 20.000 years ago.
Using the Stril Explorer, a vessel outfitted with the most advanced underwater surveillance equipment in the world, an international team led by the University of Southampton's Centre for Maritime Archaeology, funded by the charitable organisation for marine research, the Expedition and Education Foundation (EEF), used two Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to survey the seabed along the Bulgarian coast.
The  Stril Explorer is an off-shore vessel equipped with some of the most advanced underwater survey...
The Stril Explorer is an off-shore vessel equipped with some of the most advanced underwater survey systems in the world.
University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology
The Daily Mail reports that Professor Jon Adams, the principle investigator on the project, said: "We're endeavoring to answer some hotly-debated questions about when the water level rose, how rapidly it did so and what effects it had on human populations living along this stretch of the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea."
Much of the colonial and commercial activities of ancient Greece and Rome, and of the Byzantine Empire, centered on the Black Sea. When the Ottoman Turks occupied Constantinople after 1453, they changed its name to Istanbul, and the Black Sea was closed to foreign commerce. The Treaty of Paris, in 1856, forced the reopening of the Black Sea to commerce for all nations.
While scanning and mapping the waters 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) below the surface of the Black Sea, the major focus of the project was to conduct geophysical surveys, mapping former land surfaces buried below the current seabed, taking core samples to characterise and date them, and creating a palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the prehistory of the Black Sea.
The ROV  Surveyor Interceptor   flies  at four times the speed of conventional ROVs and carries an e...
The ROV, Surveyor Interceptor, 'flies' at four times the speed of conventional ROVs and carries an entire suite of geophysical instrumentation, as well as lights, high definition cameras and a laser scanner.
University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology
One of the ROVs is equipped for high-resolution, 3D photography while the other ROV, developed by survey companies MMT and Reach Subsea, and named Surveyor Interceptor, is able to fly through the depths at four times the speed of conventional ROVs, plus, it carries an entire suite of geophysical instrumentation, as well as lights, high-definition cameras, and a laser scanner.
But the scientists got an added bonus in the course of their work, coming across and photographing in great detail, the wrecks of over 40 vessels, including ships from the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. Professor Adams says, "They (the ships) are astonishingly well preserved due to the anoxic conditions (absence of oxygen) of the Black Sea below 150 meters."
The project s main objective is to carry out geophysical surveys. But shipwrecks  including this one...
The project's main objective is to carry out geophysical surveys. But shipwrecks, including this one from the Ottoman period, have given new insights into how communities live on the shores of the Black Sea
University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology
"The wrecks are a complete bonus, but a fascinating discovery," says Adams. "Using the latest 3D recording technique for underwater structures, we've been able to capture some astonishing images without disturbing the sea bed." What is really fascinating about discovering some of the ships is that the images are the first views of ship types known from historical sources, but never before seen.
The project operates under permits from the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in strict adherence to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001).
Take a couple minutes to view the video accompanying this story. The images are quite incredible and you can clearly see the hulls, masts, tillers, and rudders of the ships, some of them thousands of years old and dating to the Byzantine empire, while others are from the Ottoman period.
More about Black sea, Sea level rise, composite photography, 40 shipwrecks, Archaeology
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