Saturday, May 19, 2007


Turkey's underwater archeological treasures and challenges


Turkish Daily News
By Vercìhan Ziflioglu
May 19, 2007

Turkey's archeological riches are not limited to those under the earth. Surrounded by seas on three sides, Turkey attracts the curiosity of many local and foreign researchers with its underwater archeology.
In addition to many remains from antiquity, there are battleships and submarines from the World Wars I and II in the dark waters of Turkish seas. Underwater archeology researcher Selçuk Kolay complains about the lack of interest in our sunken treasures under the sea.

Kolay stated that the price of scrap iron rose with industrialization activities between the years 1960 and 1975. As a result of illegal diving to underwater historical remains, sunken ships were stripped and the pieces of iron were melted and resold. Saying that it is easy to dive to the sunken material that is up to forty meters underwater, Kolay commented, “Many important sunken objects were stripped in the vicinity of Istanbul. If some of these were opened to diving tourism, it would make a contribution to the country's economy greater than that of industry.” Kolay emphasized that some of this stripping was illegal and some of it was done as a result of bidding allowed by the government.

An engineer at the same time, Selçuk Kolay is interested in ships from the Steam Age. Diving in Turkey and many other countries in the world, Kolay located the Midilli Kurvazörü, which came from Germany and entered World War I under the Turkish flag and six German submarines used in World War II. After that he found the German submarine UB46 in the Black Sea and the Australian submarine AE2, which sank during World War I in the Karaburun waters of the Marmara Sea. Contributing to the locating and inventory of many sunken objects, Kolay found the remains of the Turkish submarine Atılay and the Russian ship Yvestafy in 1994 in the Aegean Sea. Indicating that the Atılay ran into a mine left over from World War I while diving near Morto Bay in 1942, Kolay went to Japan as an expert on steamships to participate in investigation of the Ertuğrul frigate. Selçuk Kolay is a member of the Turkish Institute of Nautical Archeology (TINA) Board of Directors and a member of the Institute of Nautical Archeology (INA).

The sunken remains Kolay located possess great historical importance. The most important of these are the Australian Submarine AE2 and the six German submarines that targeted Russian ships and ports during World War II. The AE2 was the first enemy ship to enter the Marmara Sea from Dardanelle. Kolay says that with a forty-man team that will come from Australia in September, they will carry out an investigation and gather data on the final condition of the AE2 and then bring the submarine to the surface using a special method. An offer was made to sell the German submarines to Turkey during İsmet İnönü's time, but it was rejected. In view of this development, the Germans removed the crew and, to prevent the submarines from being used by the Turks, they sank three of them at the mouth of the Sakarya River and three of them near Ağva. Kolay mentioned that the commander of the German sub-marines, Rodolf Arendt, is still alive and that he talks with him.

The Marmara Sea is quite rich from an archeological perspective

Beginning to become interested in technical antiques when he was at the Berlin Technical University, Kolay said, “Approximately 200 years have passed since the age of steam and underwater steamship archeology has developed.” Indicating that the definition of underwater archeology is not very different from that of land archeology, Kolay stated that the only difference is ships belonging to ancient times and investigations of settlements that have remained underwater.

Mentioning the importance of being able to make mathematical calculations and analysis on technical subjects while diving, Kolay emphasized that his engineering training was also advantageous in underwater archeological investigations regarding the Steam Age. “In the end, the steam age is a technical age. It is very appropriate in regard to training and mind-set for an engineer to investigate a topic related to technique and mechanics.” Kolay pointed out that there are many remains in the Marmara Sea, in particular, from ancient times and World War I.

The Black Sea provides insulation with its formation

Saying, “Things are found on a desk, not where they sank,” Kolay said that before the investigation begins, he first narrows down the area on the map and then concentrates on the target region. Because things do not move far from where they sank, it is possible for him to make correct location approximations. Kolay talked about the underwater conditions that protect sunken objects: “Salinity, oxygen and light are factors that affect sheet-iron in particular. On the other hand, sandy areas protect the area the sunken objects sit on and provide insulation from external influences. The best-protected remains are those in muddy and clay bottoms like in the Black Sea.

Pointing out that Turkish deep waters are becoming more and more polluted, Kolay says that the layer of mud increasing day by day is eliminating the sandy area. Investigating with special permission from the Ministry of Culture and the General Headquarters of the Monuments Museum, Selçuk Kolay indicated that there are many untouched sunken objects in places far from settlements in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas and near the central and eastern part of the Black Sea. He concluded that the treasure believed to be at the bottom of the Golden Horn is just a legend.


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