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Deep water survey of the seabed of Konavle

Deep water survey of the seabed of Konavle

A two-week survey of Croatian coastal waters off the shores of Konavle was conducted in July and August of 2012 with the collaboration of the International Centre for Underwater Archaeology, the RPM Nautical Foundation and the Croatian Ministry of Culture. The survey was conducted with the aid of multibeam sonar and the research campaign has yielded the discovery of a number of interesting underwater sites. The research zone stretched out to the 100 m contour from near Prevlaka in the south to Cape Veliki Pač to the north. The research campaign was co-directed by Dr Luka Bekić and Dr Jeffrey Royal, with an expert team consisting of Mladen Pešić, Dr Domagoj Perkić and George Robb. Also participating in the project were archaeology students from Carolina and the crew and technical personnel of the research vessel (R/V) Hercules. The valuable sites discovered during this survey can now be logged as new cultural objects into the official Register kept at the Ministry of Culture, which will enhance their legal and, indirectly, physical protection from possible looters.

The RPMNF research vessel Hercules
The ROV - Remotely Operated Vehicle

he RPMNF research vessel Hercules is equipped with a hull-mounted multibeam echosounder sonar system and a deployable diving ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle).

The multibeam echosounder survey data was processed to produce a three-dimensional model of the seafloor. An analysis of anomalies in the model determined whether these were geological formations or cultural deposits. The anomalies were plotted for ROV verification. Once cultural material was located and positions recorded, a visual investigation ensued through the use of still and video cameras and, when deemed necessary, representative material was collected from the surface of the site.

A diver documenting a position
A sonar depiction of a shipwreck

The sonar survey established seventeen potential positions (targets) for verification. The ROV was deployed to verify twelve positions, while one was investigated by divers. Seven of the twelve positions were identified as being archaeologically and/or historically significant. These are the remains of six shipwrecks and one submarine wreck.

A preliminary survey of the finds collected from the seabed at the Konavoške Stijene position shows the wreck of a Byzantine merchant vessel. At the Cape Lokvice site the find of five iron anchors and a small cast-iron swivel gun indicates a shipwreck likely in the 16th century. Two identical landing craft were identified at a distance of 400 metres, mostly likely sunk at the same time. Also identified was the wreck of what is likely a modern fishing vessel. The dimensions of a known submarine wreck to the south of Molunat were measured at this time and – with the aim of calibrating the multibeam system – the wreck of the armoured cruiser Garibaldi was surveyed revealing a section of the vessel that had broken off. The cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi sailed into the waters off Konavle on 18 August 1915 with a mission to shell the railway near Cavtat and was sunk by a torpedo launched from the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-4.

Processing of the collected finds on the vessel

This project is slated to continue in August of 2013 and, we hope, in the years to come. The survey area will be gradually broadened to the north.

Marina Šimičić

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