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Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

'Ghosts of the Deep: Ancient Shipwrecks' - first episode of Black Sea project documentary is aired

Published: 4 July 2019
The world’s oldest shipwreck dating
The world’s oldest shipwreck dating from 400BC of ancient Greek origin, most likely a trading vessel

The first episode of the documentary covering the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (Black Sea MAP) was aired on Monday 8th July at 9pm on More4 under the title ‘Ghosts of the Deep: Ancient Shipwrecks

The documentary follows a four year joint Anglo-Bulgarian expedition to the Black Sea, SE Europe, to investigate how the basin flooded after the last ice age and whether there is any evidence of the ‘catastrophic’ flood that has repeatedly attributed to the Black Sea, most notably by Ryan and Pitman in the 1990s. While the principle aim of the project was to investigate and locate any submerged landscapes (using geophysical survey and coring) from a low-stand prior to any flood, during the extensive survey of the Bulgarian shelf (covering over 2000km2) a large number of geophysical anomalies were observed on the seabed that were clearly the remains of shipwrecks. Investigation of these sites using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) revealed 65 wrecks, some perfectly preserved, up to 2400 years old, the oldest gaining international attention when the results were revealed last October (visit The Guardian news page about this story). The documentary focuses upon the discovery of these wreck sites, their investigation, and cultural significance, though also covers the geophysical surveying and coring necessary to investigate the submerged landscape associated with the Bulgarian shelf. 

The two-part documentary will showcase how geophysical surveys and coring is undertaken, operation of two very different ROV systems, diving up to 95m deep, and footage of the amazing ships discovered – some from the time of the classical Mediterranean civilisations that are almost fully intact on the seabed at over 2000m deep.

The documentary was made by the award-winning filmmakers David Belton and Andy Byatt, the latter best known for making the BBC Blue Planet and Planet Earth series narrated by David Attenborough, and shot in breath-taking 4k resolution.

SOES staff played a key role in the project, including (but not limited to) Michael Grant, Justin Dix, Rodrigo Pacheco-Ruiz, Will Symons and Chuang Xuan, as well as significant support from the British Ocean Sediment Core Research Facility (BOSCORF).

The documentary will appeal to anyone interested in palaeoenvironments, remote sensing, shipwrecks, underwater technology and archaeology.

(Photograph: Black Sea map)

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