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DIVE SLATE ANCIENT

DIVE SLATE ANCIENT SHIPWRECKS An archaeologist measures the mouth of a large pithos dating to the Hellenistic Period. our exploration capabilities, and this required overland transport of the compressor, tanks, rigid inflatable boat and dive gear. After the team’s first few dives, the existence of an abundance of ancient shipwrecks was becoming crystal clear. We found huge clusters of intact amphorae along with evidence of additional ancient shipwrecks. On the first day the team found the remains of a Roman-period shipwreck. By day five they had found an additional nine wrecks, and by day 13, a total of 22 wrecks, some of them more than 2,500 years old. These finds represent 12 percent of all known shipwrecks in Greek waters. Could this be the ancient shipwreck capital of the world? The team’s archaeologists were now in the process of 3-D mapping the wrecks and selecting samples of amphorae for inspection and study. Of the 22 wrecks the team found, the earliest dated to 700 BCE and the latest to 1500 CE. Some have called this the archaeological find of the year. “All of the shipwrecks were left intact on the seafloor for future generations of divers and scientists to explore, except for one representative artifact from each wreck,” Campbell said. “These will be conserved, analyzed, studied, and when the artifacts are stable enough, archived for future researchers to study. Some may be sent to a museum for future display. Each artifact has an identification number and a report attached to it.” On the team’s final day on the island, we shared our finds with the island’s mayor and residents. The residents of this tiny archipelago are now the supreme protectors of these great ancient antiquities. This experience elevated my enthusiasm for ancient shipwreck diving to a new level, and working alongside this team was an absolute honor for me. They are some of the most passionate, professional people I have ever met, and they do this work not for financial reward or fame, but for the preservation and protection of their country’s historical artifacts. The team will return next year to continue this amazing wreck survey, for this is one of the greatest opportunities in recent years for archaeologists to search the ocean floor for ancient underwater treasures. Who knows what other wonders will be found? AD Funded by the Honor Frost Foundation, this Fourni survey operated as a partnership between the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and RPM Nautical Foundation. 22 | WINTER 2016

TRINIDAD’S LEATHERBACKS Text and photos by Michael Patrick O’Neill A female leatherback nests in the middle of the night on a remote beach in Trinidad. Picture this: a leatherback sea turtle, a quintessentially pelagic animal, casually swimming in a jungle river in Trinidad. That’s right, a leatherback in crystal-clear fresh water with tropical foliage in the background. A freak occurrence? Absolutely. But there it was gliding in front of us, three well-travelled, experienced — and speechless — photographers. There was no time to waste. This precious opportunity could end at any second, so I went to work, slowly approaching the turtle from the side, careful not to chase or alarm it. When the water got too shallow, I kicked off my fins, tossed my mask aside and walked next to the turtle, shooting from the hip. I was grateful to have a fisheye lens, a huge glass dome and fresh batteries that kept my temperamental strobes happy and firing. Luckily, a rocky bottom — similar to a trout stream’s — kept the water mostly free of debris. My two friends and I took turns, synchronizing our efforts and miraculously staying out of each other’s way. The current washed the sand and salt mucus from the turtle’s eyes and revealed an animal of extraordinary beauty. Not your typical black leatherback, this turtle was a very pale, bluish gray with a constellation of little white stars covering her body. Every 30 feet or so, the turtle lifted her massive head out of the water to breathe the warm humid air and kept going, soaking in her new surroundings. Roughly a half mile from the sea, this living dinosaur finally realized she was in a very strange neighborhood and turned around, eventually making it back to the mouth of the river and swimming into the murky and angry Caribbean. ALERTDIVER.COM | 23

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