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venerdì, Maggio 24, 2024

UNESCO archeological expedition to explore shipwrecks in the Skerki Bank

PARIS, SEPTEMBER 1 – A UNESCO sponsored project to explore and protect underwater cultural heritage in the Mediterranean has been launched in Italian and Tunisian territorial waters. The Skerki Bank is situated in the Strait of Sicily / Canal du Cap-Bon along one of the busiest maritime routes in the Mediterranean, however it’s also one of the most perilous. The shallow waters and rocky seabed hiding in places less than a meter beneath the surface have been the cause of shipwrecks for over 3000 years, from antique trading vessels to World War Two ships. Over the past decades some of these shipwrecks have been looted by amateur divers, jeopardizing this precious historical resource

WikiIn the framework of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of The Underwater Cultural Heritage, the “Skerki Bank Project” 2022 brings together Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, France, Italy, Morocco, Spain and Tunisia and is the largest and most ambitious international mission ever conducted under the aegis of the UN agency to protect underwater cultural heritage.

The Alfred Merlin, a state-of-the-art research vessel, was made available for the mission by France, and it is equipped with high-tech underwater mapping and imaging equipment. The exploration of the shipwrecks themselves is being conducted by two ROVs (Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles), deep-sea drones able to reach areas previously inaccessible to divers. Onboard the ship are more than 20 scientists, researchers, and representatives from each of the 8 countries involved as well as specialists from UNESCO itself.

The exceptional archaeological potential of the Skerki Banks is well known to specialists. Between 1988 and 1997, several American operations explored a vast area north of the site, in the Strait of Sicily. These expeditions were among the very first large-scale operations in deep-sea archaeology and made it possible to locate at least eight extremely well-preserved wrecks from various periods.

The presence of the wreck of the Athenian, a British Royal Navy ship from the early 19th century, is also attested by archaeologists. This ship, armed by Malta and requisitioned by the French and then by the British, had taken part in several naval battles and had gone as far as China before running into the reefs of the Skerki Banks. The Athenian took her captain and over three hundred souls with her when she sank in 1806. The presence of wrecks from the Second World War is also documented in the area. (@OnuItalia)


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