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Discoveries of underwater exploration of the Black Sea
Discoveries of underwater exploration of the Black Sea

In the water area of ​​the Crimea, more than 2,000 ships were found that sank in different eras: from the times of the Bosporus kingdom to the period of the Great Patriotic War. What was on board these ships? What historical events and personalities are associated with these objects? And most importantly, what are the goals set by archaeologists? These questions were answered by Viktor Vakhoneev, Deputy Director of the Black Sea Center for Underwater Research.

Dry numbers. How many objects are located at the bottom of the Black Sea?

In the summer of 2015, at a depth of 80 meters off the coast of Balaklava in Crimea, underwater archaeologists discovered the remains of a wooden ship that dates back to the Middle Ages. The cargo of amphorae is well preserved on the ship. There are hundreds of such finds along the Crimean coast. Many ships are still waiting in the wings, since underwater archeology is a fairly young science.

“According to our preliminary calculations,” says Viktor Vakhoneev, deputy director of the Black Sea Center for Underwater Research, “a little more than 2,000 objects sank off the coast of Crimea. From ancient times to the end of the Great Patriotic War. Most of them are in the XX century: these are ships, ships and aircraft of the period of the First World War, the Civil War in Russia and the Great Patriotic War. For them, more or less statistics are understandable, because there is archived data. And all the shipwrecks before the 18th century are unknown to us in the sources. But at the same time, every year scientists and passionate divers make more and more new discoveries. For example, in recent years, several shipwrecks of the Byzantine period, medieval ones have been found in the water area of ​​the Crimea at great depths. Of those that have been found, we have examined a little more than a hundred, a little more than a dozen have been studied archaeologically, '' the scientist sums up.

Investigation of a sunken merchant ship from Pisa

There is a special direction in underwater archeology - the study of sunken ships. In English, there is a laconic term - "Nautical archeology" (from naus - "ship"). In our country, it is customary to call it the archeology of shipwrecks or ship archeology. Scientists are investigating not only the cargo that was transported on the ship, but also when and for what reason the ship sank and where it was heading.

Archival data are researchers' best friends. From them it is possible to determine where the ship was heading and where it could sink. Difficulties arise with ancient and medieval ships due to the lack of written data. True, there are also pleasant exceptions. In the 1960s, a galley from the city of Pisa was discovered. The uniqueness of this vessel is that it was possible to establish the exact date of the shipwreck.

During the Middle Ages, battles on the water were not uncommon. One of them took place on August 14, 1277. Residents of the city of Sugdei (now Sudak) witnessed the battle of the Pisa galley with the Genoese ships. As a result, the ship from Pisa caught fire and sank. This event has been preserved in written sources in the Genoese archives.

“Since the galley itself sank at a shallow depth, about 12 meters,” says Viktor Vasilyevich Vakhoneev, “the wooden remains of the ship have practically not survived. But at the same time, all the details that are of inorganic origin have been preserved: these are ceramics, that is, the cargo that this merchant ship transported, these are iron objects on the ship, coins. For example, we have found fragments of Italian weapons of the 13th century. The metal itself corroded and did not survive, but before it collapsed, these swords were covered with a crust of sediment that completely repeated the shape of the swords.That is, there was a void inside, but outside it is completely in the form of swords. We x-ray them and get the exact shape of these swords that the Pisans fought in the 13th century.

In peacetime they traded, in wartime they fought

One of the planned research topics of the Black Sea Underwater Research Center is the search and study of objects belonging to the Russian Society of Shipping and Trade. It was founded in 1856 to develop trade in the Black Sea. There was another unspoken goal - in wartime, ships were obliged to take part in sea battles. About five ships of this society have already been found in the Crimean waters.

One of the most famous ships of this society is the steamer Vesta. During the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. this merchant ship was converted into a warship. "Vesta" fought with the Turkish battleship "Fehti-Bulend" and won this difficult battle. After about ten years, the Vesta sank. Found the "hero of the Russian-Turkish war" in 2016. The famous seascape painter Ivan Vasilyevich Aivazovsky reflected in his painting the events of the battle of our steamer with a Turkish battleship.

Natural conservation

In the 1960s, Soviet archaeologist and historian of antiquity Vladimir Blavatsky said that research at a depth of more than one hundred meters would be the most promising. Who, if not him, a researcher of the ancient city of Phanagoria, knows about this. The scientist predicted that with the evolution of technology, research at great depths will be available to scientists. From 200 meters to the very bottom, there is a hydrogen sulfide layer in the Black Sea. Terribly dangerous for all living things, but for the same reason it is an ideal natural preservative. Only a few bacteria are able to function under such conditions, so the organic material remains intact and safe. It can be both the remains of a wooden ship and ancient papyri or scrolls, for example.

And there are already the first finds: an ancient Greek ship, whose age is 2400 years old, was discovered 80 kilometers from Bulgaria in 2018. According to scientists, it looks exactly the same as the day it sank. And this is only the first such find.

Chasing a sensation

In 2019, the media erupted into a sensation: on the ship "General Kotzebue" they found paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky, who spent 124 years under water since 1895! However, scientists have yet to find out whether the paintings belong to the brush of the great marine painter. It seems to the townsfolk that there is a sensation behind every sunken ship, which, to put it mildly, is not entirely true.

“Archaeologists have been dealing with any scientific problem for a long time,” says Viktor Vakhoneev, deputy director of the Black Sea Center for Underwater Research. - For example, one archaeological site can be unearthed throughout your life. And in this life, one or two times you can make some kind of sensation. Even if archaeologists do not find something in this field season, this does not mean at all that some kind of discovery has not been made. We made the discovery that nothing was sinking here, for example. The fact is that abroad there is such a definition of "Treasure hunter" - treasure hunters. And so they are just striving for some kind of sensation. We, having opened a ship, begin to systematically explore it for many, many years. We aim at the quality of the research carried out, not the quantity, - the scientist emphasizes.

The growth of culture as a way to combat "black archaeologists"

Previously, the underwater beauty remained a mystery to man: ships went to the bottom with their cargo, their stories were forgotten. Therefore, people did not know the true value of these objects. Marauders or black archaeologists appeared. The higher the level of culture and education of the population, the less historically important objects, land or underwater, will be damaged.

In Russia, more and more people want to devote their lives to researching shipwrecks and sunken cities. As a response to this, a master's program "Underwater Archeology" was opened at Sevastopol State University.Master students have already taken part in an expedition to Syria in the waters of Tartus. Volunteers from Colombia, France and the CIS countries help with local expeditions.

Sunken and undiscovered objects in the Black Sea

Black Prince

In 1854, the British propeller-driven sailing ship "HMS Prince" sailed to the Crimea to deliver the British army, which besieged Sevastopol during the Crimean War, medicines, winter uniforms, as well as salaries for soldiers and officers. The amount was 500 thousand pounds sterling in gold and silver.

The ship did not reach the coast - it sank during a storm in the Balaklava Bay. Since then, hundreds of treasure seekers have been combing the seabed. Expeditions from France, USA, Norway, Germany and Spain were sent to search for gold. Only the British themselves did not participate in the search.

Some scholars believe that the gold and silver were unloaded in Istanbul, where the quartermaster's headquarters was. In 2010, information appeared that the wreckage of the ship was discovered by Ukrainian divers and even raised fragments of the captain's service with the name of the ship from the bottom. However, underwater seekers, with perseverance worthy of better use, continue to comb the bottom in Balaklava Bay.

D-4 "Revolutionary"- Soviet diesel-electric torpedo submarine, built in 1927-1930, the fourth ship of series I, project D - "Decembrist".

During the years of World War II, D-4 made 16 military campaigns, including 6 transport flights to besieged Sevastopol. The German transport "Boy Federsen" (former Soviet "Kharkov"), the Bulgarian transport "Varna" and, probably, the German transport "Santa-Fe" were sunk. All - near Cape Tarkhankut.

On November 11, 1943, the boat went on a military campaign. The D-4 was last seen on December 1 from the Sch-209 submarine. Some sources name the Kalimatskiy Gulf as the place of death. Here, south-west of Cape Uret, after an unsuccessful attack by landing barge No. 566 D-4, the anti-submarine ships Uj-103 and Uj-102 were sunk.

Leader of the destroyers "Kharkov" (project 1), destroyers "Merciless" and "Capable" (project 7-U)

The ships were lost on October 6, 1943 during a raid operation on the coast of the Crimean peninsula occupied by German troops. Out of 903 people on board the three dead ships, boats and seaplanes rescued 187. The ships can be located at a depth of about 1800 meters and a distance of 160 km from the seaport of Novorossiysk.


Novice divers at Cape Tarkhankut are often looking for the Lariss ship, which in the winter of 1944 allegedly transported valuables looted by the Wehrmacht from the museums of the Crimea, Stavropol Territory and Rostov Region to Romania: paintings, ancient ceramics, gold, silver, and palace utensils.

In fact, the ship "Larissa", indeed, was part of the German merchant fleet, only it sank on May 1, 1941 in the Gulf of Volos (Greece) as a result of a British mine explosion.

So looking for this ship in the Black Sea is not only difficult, but also pointless.

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