Experience under the seabed! With diving in Visitable Underwater Archaeological Sites, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces.

In particular, the Ministry of Culture is proceeding with the final presentation to the diving public of properly organized Visitable Marine Archaeological Sites (MMS), after the completion of the pilot visit phase, which began in 2020, from the Shipwreck of Peristera in Alonissos.

Visits to the Marine Archaeological Sites

The Visit Organization Study (MOE), which is being prepared and implemented for the first time, concerns the four visitable underwater wrecks in Alonissos and the Western Pagasitikos. The project is implemented with funding from the Regional Operational Program of Thessaly with a completion schedule of the end of 2025 and the implementing body is the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities.

The MOE is structured in seven sections:

1. The purpose and benefits, 2. The context of the visit (legislation, technical parameters of diving, visit procedure), 3. The necessary infrastructure (guardianship – security of the EEACH, visitor service), 4. The specific areas of intervention (sermons, EEACH, visit areas, facilities), 5. The archaeological stock of EEACH (Peristera Classical Wreck, Late Antiquity Telegrafou Wreck, Mid-Byzantine Period Kikynthos Wreck, Glaros site with ancient anchors), 6. The experience of the visit (visitor routes, points of interest, permitted activities), 7. The protection-monitoring of EEACH (systematic monitoring of premises, maintenance, supervision, cleanings)

The MOE describes the way of visiting divers-visitors: Visitors are transported to the EEACH by boats of certified diving centers that are also responsible for observing the Operating Regulations, issued in 2020 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The boats sail to the EEACH from the specific departure points that have been determined, after the necessary check has been made by the staff of the Ephorate of Marine Antiquities (EAA). Afterwards, visitors dive in the EEACH in groups of eight divers (maximum number per dive) with professional diver guides.

From the dive line they reach a certain depth, from where the designated underwater courses/tour corridors start. The routes have been designed in such a way as to ensure the protection of the antiquities. Divers are not allowed to approach the bottom at a distance of less than one and a half meters, and the finds at a distance of less than one meter. It is forbidden to touch the findings, the underwater signs, the surveillance cameras and all the operating facilities of the site. The above is ensured by a professional diving guide of the respective diving center, who is also certified as an EEACH escort by the EEA. The routes have been tested during the pilot operation of the EEACHs.

The MoE describes the infrastructure necessary for the operation of the EEACH, for which the special studies that accompany it have been drawn up:
Disembarkation point: This is a point at the pier of Steni Vala in Alonissos and at the port of Amaliapoli, respectively, from where they will start and the boats carrying divers-guests to the EEACH will end up.

Boats: They are permanent moorings intended for the safe mooring of: a) the boats of the diving centers that will transport the divers from the departure point to visit the EEACH, and b) the vessels of the EEAA, as it is prohibited to drop anchor in the EEAA for reasons for the protection of marine antiquities.

Light buoys: The area of ​​the EEACH is demarcated with light buoys, in accordance with the instructions and specifications of the Hydrographic Service, in order to mark the area where fishing, anchoring, and passage of boats are prohibited during the hours of operation of the EEACH.

Dive Line: The point from where divers dive into the space. It consists of a vertical rope held by a buoy on the surface and an anchor on the bottom. It offers safety to divers and is the starting point of the corridors for visiting the seabed. It is also used for safe ascent and the preventive decompression stop which is a safety measure of autonomous diving. It is located in close proximity to the beaches.

Underwater optical surveillance system: This is a system of underwater cameras and surface cameras on the coast, which transmits in real time the image of the wreck and the surface of the sea space of the ESA to the PC of the ESA. First of all, this application allows the EEACH to be guarded throughout the year from actions that may damage it, while it also ensures the remote supervision of diving, when the area is open to the public. The supervisor has the ability to monitor the dive on the PC screen and document any violations by taking a screenshot.

In EEACH Peristeras, it was installed as a pilot in 2020 and continues to operate continuously until today. The study for the development of an underwater optical monitoring system for visiting underwater archaeological sites – underwater museums in Kikynthos, Telegrafos and Glaros Pagasitikos concerns the extension of a corresponding system in the Western Pagasitikos ESAs, and the upgrade of the Peristeras ESAS system with the development of software to identify illegal activity and automatically send a signal – notification to the appropriate recipients.

Interpretive means: Underwater signs indicating the course and stopping points of the visitors, with the points of interest of the ESAs. They contain basic information (type, shape, dating, depth) about the specific antiquities that visitors can observe at each stop.

Shipwreck of Alonissos
EEACH Peristeras: The islet of Peristeras is located east of Alonissos, within the marine park of the Northern Sporades. Near its western rocky coast and at a depth of 22 to 30 meters, in 1985 the ancient shipwreck was discovered by a fisherman. This is a large concentration of sharp-bottomed commercial amphorae that exceed 3,500 and were the main cargo of an ancient commercial ship. Two types of amphorae have been identified that come from Mendi and Peparithos (Skopelos) and probably carried wine.

The finds also include luxurious vessels (ink goblets and plates) that were secondary cargo, vessels for daily use (lamps, wicks, etc.) of the crew, and items related to the equipment of the ship (lead anchor parts and nails) . Based on the findings, the shipwreck is dated to the last quarter of the 5th century BC.

Wrecks of the West Ice Age

EEACH Telegrafos: The Shipwreck was located in “Telegrafos” bay in 2000. The area of ​​the findings is located at a depth of 17 to 23 meters on a rocky bottom with sand pockets. Eight (8) types of commercial amphorae were found, all from the 4th c. A.D. Traces of tar were found inside many amphorae indicating the transport of wine. The type represented with the most vessels (20) is from the Peloponnese. This set is the largest known concentration in Greece. Other types come from the Northeast Aegean, while a unique amphora was identified as Palestinian. The amphorae formed two main concentrations on the bottom, without, however, much cohesion, which indicates an overturning of the ship.

Kikynthos Island: The uninhabited islet of Kikynthos is developed as a natural breakwater at the entrance of the bay of Amaliapoli, in the western Pagasitikos. Due to the ancient remains that have been identified, which represent a long period of time, from the early Christian era to the 19th century, the islet has been declared an archaeological site. On the northwest coast of the island, at a depth of 3.5 to 12m, a pile of large, but broken, transport vessels was discovered in 2005. These are parts of pithos that typologically appear as early as the 9th century and amphorae that date more precisely between the 11th and 12th centuries.

The archaeological data so far indicate a wreck of a relatively small merchant ship of the mid-Byzantine period, probably of the 11th century

Cape Glaros: On the southwestern shores of the Pagasitic Gulf, Cape Glaros was a dangerous passage for ships trying to enter the sheltered bay of ancient Nios. Traces of at least four ancient shipwrecks – one Hellenistic, one Roman and two Byzantine – can be found on the seabed of Glaros, as well as vessels and anchors from other periods that constitute possible discards. Two concentrations with a total of over ten (10) iron Byzantine anchors can be linked to 12th-13th century amphorae found in the same area, indicating a wreck of a large Byzantine merchant ship. This is the largest set of Byzantine anchors that has been found in the Greek seas.

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