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.
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.
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.
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.