As the Titanic rots away, a mysterious Dead Spot in the Black Sea keeps 41 shipwrecks eerily preserved for centuries

As the Titanic rots away, a mysterious Dead Spot in the Black Sea keeps 41 shipwrecks eerily preserved for centuries


A DEVASTATING diving trip to the wreck of the Titanic left history buffs gutted when it found the monster ship has mostly been lost to the sea.

Even the captain’s bathtub, an iconic site from previous dives, has mostly worn away — but there is a mysterious place on earth where shipwrecks stay perfectly preserved for centuries.

By comparison, the 107-year-old wreck of the Titanic is quickly rotting away into nothingness at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean
Associated Press

Getty – Contributor

The captain’s bathtub, pictured here from a previous expedition, has now been lost after part of the ship collapsed[/caption]

Scientists refer to the eerie spot as the “dead zone” in the Black Sea, where 41 ships from the ninth to the 19th century remain untouched by time.

The wood on some of the ghostly vessels is so well preserved that individual chisel and tool marks can be seen on the planks.

But normally, wood and rope are the first things to be taken by the sea as salt and bacteria eat away at the material.

This incredible place was discovered between 150m and 2,200m beneath the waves of the Black Sea by a team of international scientists.

The crew found the spot while mapping the seabed with sonar and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) worth $8million each.

One of the ships in the Black Sea’s dead zone – where wrecks don’t decay for thousands of years
Black Sea Map/EEF
Detailing on some of the wrecks’ anchors also helps to identify where and when they came from – like on this Ottoman boat
Black Sea Map/EEF

Scientists say the reason the ships are so well preserved in the dead zone is because of the unusual chemistry in the Black Sea.

Jon Adams, the principal investigator of the project, told National Geographic: “When the last Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago, the Black Sea was really the Black Lake.”

As temperatures rose and sea levels increased, saltwater from the Mediterranean began spilling into rivers that fed the Black Sea.

This meant that both freshwater and saltwater rivers now flowed into the Black Sea, resulting in two “levels” of water.

The top layer of less salty water is rich in oxygen, but the lower layer has no oxygen.

This is why the ships have remained so perfectly intact for a millennium.

Prof Adams said: “Nobody has seen anything quite like this before.”

Historical texts and illustrations have given scientists and historians some clues as to where (and when) the astonishing wrecks came from.

The oldest seems to be from the late 800s, when the Byzantine Empire controlled most of the region.

But there are also ships from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th-18th centuries, and a medieval Italian ship most likely from the 1300s.

Most of the wrecks were merchant ships found to be transporting goods like metals, timber and wine.

And one of them boats is among the best surviving examples of a medieval Venetian ship called a “cocha”, or round ship.

The boats are in such good condition that individual chisel marks can be discerned on the planks of the hulls
Black Sea Map/EEF

The boat is believed to have sunk in the 13th century during the height of Venice’s golden era, when legendary explorer Marco Polo was documenting the marvels of the world.

Prof Adams remarked: “We know the Italians were quite prominent in the Black Sea in medieval trade, but to see a vessel of a type that might’ve been recognised by Marco Polo is quite astonishing.”

Archaeologists can estimate the origins of the ghostly ruins by looking at the kind of clay pots they were carrying, as well as how the masts and rigging were arranged.

Although some of the ships appear to be “raiding vessels” suggesting piracy, all of them seem to have sank in storms rather than sea battles.

The researchers spent a month on board the Stril Explorer to capture their incredible find in photos and videos.

They then made 3D models of the 41 wrecks, spread out over 2,000 square kilometres, by digitally stitching the images together.

A team of international researchers worked 24 hours a day on board the Stril Explorer ship uncovering the wrecks of the dead zone
Black Sea Map/EEF
They used $8million remotely operated vehicles to explore the dark and lifeless depths of the dead zone
Black Sea Map/EEF
The ancient wrecks were in astonishing condition – the oldest one was thought to be over 1,000 years old, dating back to the late 800s
Black Sea Map/EEF
The arrangement of the ships’ masts also gives clues to their provenance
Black Sea Maps/ EEF Expeditions
All of the wrecks are immersed in salty water where unusual chemistry keeps the remains intact
Black Sea Map/EEF
A diver photographing one of the wrecks – some of which date back to the Ottoman and Byzantine empires
Black Sea Maps/EEF Expeditions


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