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On the bottom of the deep blue sea

Ottoman shipwrecks found near Cyprus

(NOAA Photo Archive)

American oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard says his latest deep sea expedition off the coast of Cyprus has revealed an amazing array of life forms, shipwrecks and unusual discoveries.

During most of August, Ballard's research team on board the EV Nautilus have concentrated on the unique geological makeup of the Eratosthenes Seamount, one of the largest features on the eastern Mediterranean seafloor.

“We have found a lot of fascinating things," Ballard told German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. "You have to realize that when you go where no one has gone before on Planet Earth, you are not really sure what you're going to find.”

“We've been making some real biological discoveries, and we've also been mapping two Ottoman war galleys which sank about 3,000 feet beneath where we are right now."

The remains of the Ottoman war galley were found along with a flintlock pistol and what appeared to be black rum bottles littering the sea floor.

Surprisingly, the metal pistol seemed to be remarkably well-preserved, but most of the wood from the ship has deteriorated having been eaten away by marine organisms.

 

Ballard found global fame in 1985 after discovering the Titanic some three miles below the surface of the Atlantic. This discovery gave the world its first glance at the ghostly ship that sank in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

 

His crew for the Cyprus expedition includes researchers, geologists and the renowned NASA astronaut, Cady Coleman, who is working as their navigator. She says that the earth's oceans, much like deep space, remain a largely unexplored frontier.

 

For those onshore, the expedition brought a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, as cameras beamed live, high definition pictures from the bottom of the Mediterranean sea to the internet.

Katy Croff Bell, chief scientist of the Nautilus Exploration Programme, says that many viewers to the web stream were able to delve into the oceans' secrets. Viewers witnessed a huge shark crossing the ship's path with other highlights - including live pictures of mating squid and fossilized whale bones.

Bell says one of the most important results of their exploration was the use of a so-called tele-presence, which means experts were on-call day-and-night to assist the team onboard when discoveries were made.

For Robert Ballard, the most fascinating aspect of the expedition was the in-depth probe of the Eratosthenes Seamount, which measures 120 km long and 80 km wide. Its peak lies at the depth of 690 meters and it rises 2000 meters above the surrounding seafloor.

“It's large, and it's situated between Cyprus and Egypt, so we're in an area traversed by a lot of ancient mariners. And during our time here we've been able to document a whole range of artefacts that have fallen to the ocean floor.”

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