Kizilburun: Shipwreck Panoramas 150 Feet Underwater

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Dockside Panorama - Kizilburun, Turkey

I’d like to take a minute to share a little about the project I worked on all last summer, the Kizilburun shipwreck excavation.  My wife and I spent the summer living in a remote camp on the coast of Turkey as part of a team excavating a shipwreck over 2,000 years old.  This really is a project my wife has worked on for a couple years now but this summer I was able to join the excavation as a photographer.

For the past five years, a team of archaeologists from Texas A&M University and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology has been excavating an ancient Roman shipwreck.  The ship is a significant find as it was carrying a monumental column, approximately 6 feet in diameter.  The ship is believed to have been traveling to a temple at Claros before it sank in the 1st century BC.  The column itself was transported as 8 drums, basically cross sections about 3-4 feet thick that would then be stacked up at the final destination to form the column.  Today, these drums have been moved off to the side of the site so that any hull remains can be excavated.

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Drum Garden Panorama - Kiziliburun, Turkey

The wreck sits in approximately 150 feet of water just a short distance from the rugged and rocky coast.  We dove twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, to excavate.  Due to the depth, we couldn’t use standard dive tables and techniques as standard tables don’t go up to 150 feet.  If they did, bottom times would be somewhere around 5-8 minutes or so, hardly enough time to do much work.  Using tables developed specifically for this site, we were able to have 20 minutes on the bottom followed by a decompression stop at about 15 feet where we would breath pure Oxygen for 15 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon.

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Downslope Excavation Panorama - Kizilburun, Turkey

My purpose for the summer was to create a series of spherical panoramas of the site and the archeologists working underwater.  To my knowledge, only a handful of people have ever created spherical panoramas underwater and never at a depth of 150 feet.  We had a number of problems with the camera I was supposed to be using for the first month of my trip so all of the panoramas were created in the final two weeks.  Unfortunately, this was the final season of the site so most of the artifacts have already been removed leaving a relatively empty site.

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Panorama of Empty Site - Kizilburun, Turkey

The project was a lot of fun and really my first taste at creating images underwater.  I had rented a point and shoot for a day during one trip many years ago, but I had never used an SLR underwater.  The photography itself was a huge challenge and I am very pleased with the results.   I also had an opportunity to shoot some underwater video during the first month of camera troubles, which was a lot of fun.  I look forward to future opportunities to join my wife on excavations and create images totally different than my normal pursuits.

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  1. Wow, that is interesting. I have never seen interactive panos from underwater – those are really cool Drew!

  2. These are amazing Drew! Nice “work” 🙂

  3. Ron and Brandon,

    Thanks to you both. It was a ton of fun.

  4. Hi Drew,

    Amazing work! Considering the narrow visibility and the short bottom time, the VRs came out great indeed.

    Kudos! 🙂

  5. Very impressive result Drew, just a tad better than I could do with my Nik III. You should show your work to Chris Rowland at University of Dundee, you have a common interest.

    Cheers, Steve

  6. Drew, wonderful work. This is my first experience seeing underwater interactive panos and you should be very proud of your results!

  7. Thanks everyone!

  8. Hello Drew,

    really challenging work! I always thought of applying panoramas for underwater archaeological documentation on my own, but I left archaeology and professional diving 10 years ago and started working with panos seriously only in 2003.
    Are the poles with the bell shaped tops reference points for measurements? And in the background of pano no. 2 I can see an airfilled (?) dome, meant for underwater direct communication? Pretty cool all in all!


  9. Michael,

    You are correct. The tripods with bell markers were used for mapping to create fixed points that were then used to accurately map in any artifacts found. The airfilled dome is the telephone booth and it is mostly for emergency communication when underwater. You can go in and talk and it works great except you sound like you just inhaled several helium balloons. Thanks for your comments!

  10. AMAZING! So pleased to have come across this impressive site.

  11. This is so fascinating and your spherical panoramas are absolutely amazing. Wow!! I’ve never seen anything like this.

  12. AMAZING! Just took a quick tour. will “swim” longer next week after show. Can’t wait to share with some friends.

  13. Great panoramas & surely a great adventure! Amazing! Hope that we’ll see more of this kind of projects in the future!


  1. […] I just posted a bit of information about the excavation as well as four of the panoramas on my blog. Be sure to check it out. I would make some major changes to the setup if I was going to do it […]

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