Dispatch 1: Expedition Prologue
It is an old story
But one that still can be told
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ISTANBULAt daybreak Muslim calls to prayer
rouse me from sleep. I open my hotel window and gaze
out at the waters that swirl at the feet of this ancient
city. From my vantage point the Bosporus Strait
appears as a thin ribbon of water. It is a faint but
Recent evidence suggests that some 7,000 years ago a
natural earthen dam spanning the Bosporus was
breached, eroded by rising sea levels of the
Mediterranean that followed the last ice age. Some say
water thundered into the Black Sea basin with an
estimated force nine times greater than Niagara Falls,
flooding land and a freshwater lake.
Was that violent geologic event the source of the
Biblical flood story and even older epic histories? I
decide it is too heady a thought to contemplate at such
an early hour.
Months of planning and anticipation have finally
winnowed to days. Tomorrow the expedition, lead by
oceanographer and underwater explorer Dr. Robert
Ballard, will begin.
Our mission? To search for evidence of Paleolithic
settlements along once-dry lands in the Black Sea basin
that preceded its inundation. A second goal is to comb
early Black Sea trade routes for ancient shipwrecks. If
found, they may be among the best-preserved ships
Ballard is confident there are ships to find. But the quest
for Noahs house is more
uncertain. One challenge is the scale and nature of
what early Paleolithic peoples may have left behind.
What is it that you can find submerged after
7,000 years? Ballard asks.
But the greater hurdle may lie less with the ravages of
the past 7,000 years than with the past 70. Modern-day
fishing trawlers, dragging the sea floor with
bottom-scraping otterdore nets, may have erased what
scant evidence remained. How efficient have
they been at removing any evidence? Ballard
The expedition team will soon have their answer.
Go to 1999 Dispatches
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