Cooper’s Treasure: Marine archaeologist discovers shipwreck
Many of the world’s most famous shipwrecks, namely the Titanic, are lost in the depths of the sea. The ships slowly deteriorate at the hands of metal-eating bacteria, with the famous cruise ship rotting away to nothingness at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Yet, shipwrecks in one mysterious place remain eerily preserved for centuries, and in some cases more like millennia.
Scientists often consider one section of the Black Sea a “dead zone”, with an abundance of ships dating back as far as 2,400 years effectively frozen in time on the seabed.
The lack of oxygen in the icy depths means the riot of creatures that usually feast on sunken ships cannot survive.
In August 2016, a team of explorers sent a robot down to the bottom of the Black Sea, and were amazed at what they saw.
The robot shone a light on the seabed, taking thousands of high-resolution photos, which were then formed into a detailed portrait.
Photogrammetric model of a wreck from Ottoman period
Photogrammetric model of Ottoman wreck overlaid with Supporter ROV
What they found was a medieval ship more than half-a-mile below the surface, undisturbed for around 800 years.
Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, expedition member at the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton, told the New York Times: “That’s never been seen archaeologically.
“We couldn’t believe our eyes.”
Dated back to the 13th or 14th Century, the medieval ship shed new light on the sailing vessels that conquered the New World.
The remains of an ancient Greek trading ship lying on the Black Sea bed.
A ship of this kind had never been seen in complete form before.
The quarterdeck — from which the captain would have directed his crew — proved the breakthrough find.
Remarkably, it was one of more than 60 ships discovered off the Bulgarian coast.
The vessels’ ages spanned thousands of years, and are in such a good state of preservation that intact coils of rope and rudders can be seen.
Photogrammetric model of wreck from Medieval period
Jon Adams, leader of the expedition and founding director of the University of Southampton’s maritime archaeology centre, said the ships are “astonishingly preserved”.
Goods traded on the Black Sea hundreds of years ago include grains, horses, oils, wine and even people.
Given the state of the ships, archaeologist Brendan P Foley suggested the objects inside the hulls might also be intact.
He said: “You might find books, parchment, written documents.
Five of the world’s most groundbreaking archaeological finds.
“Who knows how much of this stuff was being transported? But now we have the possibility of finding out. It’s amazing.”
Scientists believe the “dead zone”, which lies between 150m and 2,200m, is due to the unique composition of that part of the Black Sea.
Mr Adams told National Geographic: “When the last Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago, the Black Sea was really the Black Lake.”
As global temperatures increased and sea levels rose, saltwater from the Mediterranean started to flow into rivers which fed the Black Sea.
Freshwater and saltwater rivers both flowing into the Black Sea meant there were two “levels” of water. The top, less salty layer is rich in oxygen, but the lower layer has none.
Historical texts help give scientists and historians a better understanding of where and when the wrecks might have come from.
The oldest intact wreck, discovered in 2017, dates back to 400 BC.
Others range from the late 800s, when the Byzantine Empire was in full swing, to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th-18th Centuries.
By looking at the clay pots the ships were carrying, and the way the masts and rigging were arranged, archaeologists can estimate the ships’ origins.