Friday, October 10, 2014

Photographing History’s History

It has been nearly 75 years since USS Arizona was lost in Pearl Harbor in 1941; 150 years since the first successful submarine in history, HL Hunley, disappeared off the cost of Charleston, South Carolina in 1864; and 161 years since the HMS Investigator was abandoned in the arctic while searching for Sir Franklin in 1853. These are a few “old” shipwrecks I have been privileged to photograph throughout my career –all of which seem modern when compared to Antikythera site- a wreck that dates to the first century BC– almost 2100 years ago! It certainly is a first in my career to be photographing something from before the time of Christ.

Getting to the tiny island of Antikythera is not an easy feat. Both Evan and I were privileged to speak at this year’s EuroTek conference which took us through London en route to Greece. Once in Athens we overnighted and caught a small commuter plane to the island of Kythera, some 40 miles away from our final destination. Easy so far. 

Shipwreck off Kythera
There had been untold evolutions of project planning for the last leg of our journey to Antikythera – charter helicopters, Greek Navy ships, rented fishing boats, and luxury yachts were among them. Issues of excess gear, however, and Force 8 (40-50mph) winds when we arrived on Kythera sealed our transportation fate. There were no air or sea options other than to wait nearly 3 days for the large car/passenger ferry to Antikythera. We passed the time with some hiking, sightseeing and getting locked in a cave. 

After exploring this cave system...
...we returned to the exit and were on the wrong side of this.

The final leg in our journey was aboard the ferry that runs throughout the lower Greek Peloponnese island chain. The boarding process was straight out of a foreign movie. I was imagining the soundtrack as motorbikes, cars, nuns, semis, and the elderly all jockeyed for position and scrambling up the loading ramp to board the ferry. After 41 miles (which took 3hrs), we arrived at the small port of Potamos on the island of Antikythera to greet the Return to Antikythera project crew.

Ferry from Kythera to Antikythera

Camera Prep with Kovacs

After a day to settle into our quarters, prep cameras, set up hard drives, build rebreathers (and discover my electronics were dead), and attempt to learn/remember a platoon of Greek names, it was time to dive. Evan and I had left the States 8 days earlier and were ready to get wet. We jumped on one of the dive boats for a shakedown dive just outside the harbor on some sea pinnacles. Settling at the bottom, I had to check, then recheck, my depth gauge. From 85’ I could look to the surface and not only see the boat, but also easily read the registration numbers on its hull. The visibility was exceptional - this was going to be good!

A derelict fishing net from our checkout dive

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