Dispatch 6: Chief Scientist’s Log 9/5/00

September 5, 2000

[Note: Nationalgeographic.com does not research or copyedit field dispatches.]

Chief Scientist Bob Ballard sends the following expedition update from his log:

The last 4 days have been very busy ones. We arrived at our first study area some 40 miles [64.4 kilometers] west of Sinop and immediately began working. We picked this area because it contains a large region of submerged land that would have been an excellent place for people to live prior to the flood.

Photo of the crew with Little Hercules

The northern coast of Turkey is very mountainous with steep slopes that plunge into the sea resulting in steep underwater terrain. There are only a couple of places between Istanbul and Sinop were one can find an underwater landscape were people might have been living before the flood.

The area we picked off the Turkish seaports of Abana to Ayancik is one such place. It also has several rivers that flow down from the mountains, out onto the submerged shelf before plunging into the deep abyss.

Photo of Little Hercules

Our job is to find those river channels that are now submerged beneath the floodwaters of the Black Sea and trace them out across the once exposed land surface to where they enter what would have been the ancient lake.

Clearly, ancient people would have lived along such river channels where they enter the ancient lake.

Initially, we concentrated our efforts in the western half of the study area between Abana and Turkeli. Unfortunately, the maps of this area are very crude, causing us to falsely assume that a major submerged river delta existed in this area with various river channels cutting through it.

As our survey progressed, however, we found no rivers cutting across the area to enter the ancient lake. We found instead a coastal bluff having a narrow sloping beach.

Photo of Jim Newman

It wasn’t until the very end of the survey that we found a river channel entering the sea in the eastern edge of our survey area just east of Turkeli.

Before expanding our survey area to the east to include this river channel, we decided to put our visual imaging vehicle ARGUS into the water to check out some of the individual targets we detected during the survey as well as inspect the newly discovered river channel.

The first target we looked at caused quite a stir. It was my favorite one from the survey. It was located at the intersection of two small inland river channels. It was a rectangular features some 12 meters [13 yards] long by 4 meters [4.4 yards] wide. I thought it might be a shipwreck but it didn’t look quite right.

When we approached it we found it to be mostly logs and timbers with nothing that would suggest a maritime purpose. No amphora, no anchors, cables, or machinery. The archaeologists on board were left scratching their heads. Clearly, we need to send our new ROV LITTLE HERCULES down to take a look but our pilot Martin Bowen was not due to arrive until the 7th.

We would just have to wait.

In the meantime, we began moving toward some other targets when the sonar system on ARGUS flooded putting us out of action. We were able to explore the ancient lake bottom and the shoreline where we saw ancient sand waves, shelly beaches, and dead trees but we were not able to inspect specific targets we had seen until a new sonar arrives by air.

I had hoped to check out several targets that appeared to be ancient shipwrecks but that to would have to wait.

With ARGUS out of the water for repairs, I close this entry as the DSL-120 heads toward the bottom to map our newly discovered river channel.

—Bob Ballard

Go to 1999 Dispatches





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