The thought of finding hidden treasure beneath the waves is the ultimate fantasy for many divers, and yet, watching movies like Into The Blue or Fool’s Gold from the comfort of our living rooms is the closest most of us are likely to get to realizing this dream. This summer, however, marine archaeology foundation The Aurora Trust is offering a handful of civilians the opportunity to join a team of world-renowned archaeologists on a deep-sea treasure hunting expedition in the Mediterranean Sea. Founded by renowned undersea explorers Craig Mullen and Ian Koblick, the purpose of The Aurora Trust is to uncover the secrets of those shipwrecks that have remained hidden for thousands of years on the seafloor, and as a result, to increase our understanding of the planet’s maritime past. The Trust has spearheaded marine archaeology projects all over the world, and in particular, has made some incredible discoveries in the Mediterranean.
This year, their efforts will focus on three wreck sites that the Trust previously located and identified off Panarea, an Aeolian Island on the northern coast of Sicily. Preliminary investigations of the wrecks’ cargo, as well as estimates of their age in connection with Panarea’s history suggest that the wrecks are either Roman or Greek in origin, and are likely to be at least 2,000 years old. Much of the wooden superstructure of these ancient ships has long since disintegrated but the cargoes of valuable amphorae, ancient Greek or Roman jars, that the ships were carrying when they went down are still easily visible. Through a program known as SubSea Explorers, The Aurora Trust is inviting members of the public to take part in one of eight week-long expeditions, whose purpose is to further document, film and study these fascinating wreck sites. During the expedition, participating civilians will be treated as authentic members of the archaeological team, and will have the chance to make repeat visits to the wrecks using The Aurora Trust’s state-of-the-art deep-sea submersible.
The submersible, known as a C Explorer Mini Sub, is capable of diving well beyond the limits of recreational scuba to depths of 1,000 feet (300 m). Panarea’s ancient wrecks lie at a maximum of approximately 500 feet (150 m) and are therefore well within the sub’s safety limits. The C Explorer, a true marvel of engineering, features an acrylic viewing sphere that has the same refraction index as seawater and therefore seems to disappear completely once submerged, giving the sub a spacious feel that’s designed to prevent diver claustrophobia. The C Explorer is also air-conditioned, and maintains a constant cabin pressure of one atmosphere at all times. Those who take part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will make repeated dives in the sub to the Panarea wrecks, accompanied by a professional pilot and a noted marine archaeologist. Once there, the goal of the project is to discover the wrecks’ secrets, answering questions about their intended destinations, their cargo and what caused them to sink in the first place.
The 2015 expedition will be supervised and directed by Dr. Sebastiano Tusa, the Superintendent of the Seas of Sicily. In conjunction with the Sicilian government, the Trust intends to salvage some of the wrecks’ artifacts for display in regional museums. The purpose of this program is to shed some light on the intriguing maritime past of the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago named after Aeolus, the ancient Greek god of the winds. We know that Panarea and its surrounding islands were colonized by the ancient Greeks in the first quarter of the 6th century BC, and that three centuries later, the islands were invaded by the Romans.
Although the cargo of these wrecks may be made up of ancient amphorae rather than the silver and gold favored by Hollywood scripts, the history that they represent constitutes treasure in the truest sense of the word. The Aurora Trust’s 2015 expeditions may be expensive, but for those who can afford it, the opportunity to take part in a real-life treasure hunt surely comes cheap at any price.
For more information, visit: subseaexplorers.com.