İZMİR – Anadolu Agency
Turkey’s underwater richness cannot be protected because these areas are forbidden zones. But they are plundered during illegal diving activities, say officials
Sunken ships that have been discovered in the seas surrounding Anatolia should be open to tourism to improve diving tourism in the country, according to the Turkish Foundation for Underwater Archaeology (TINA) President Oğuz Aydemir.
Aydemir thinks sunken ships cannot be protected, while Turkish Underwater Sports Federation President İnkılap Obruk claims Turkey would rival the Red Sea if sunken ships were open to diving tourism.
Turkey drew attention from the world when the 3,400-year-old Uluburun ship was found in 1984. The sunken ship and remnants discovered within it are currently being displayed at the Bodrum Underwater Archaeology Museum. An Uluburun replica, which was constructed in 40 days, is one of the most popular diving places in Kaş’s Limanağzı area. It is difficult to protect the hundreds of sunken ships and ancient cities. The areas around the sunken ships are forbidden for divers since the cost of underwater excavations and conservation process is too high and because of safety concerns for treasure hunters.
Aydemir, the head of TINA, which supports a project of Dokuz Eylül University on Turkey’s sunken ships inventory, said scientific work revealed that Turkey was the number one in the world in terms of underwater richness.
He said Turkey’s underwater archaeology had great potential to serve the country’s cultural tourism, noting that the regions around sunken ships were forbidden zones for diving activities, but the measures were insufficient in protecting sunken richness.
“It not possible to guard these sunken ships all of the time. Unfortunately, illegal diving cannot be prevented. There are many countries in the world that open their sunken ships to tourism providing their protection. For example, Croatia’s underwater richness cannot even be compared to ours and they have a rational system. They surround the sunken ships with steel cases and provide diving opportunities under the surveillance of licensed diving schools. We can do it in Turkey, too. The relevant ministry, volunteer organizations and academics can work on it. Many sunken ships are close to popular tourism hubs. They should be brought into culture tourism.”
‘We don’t even have a sunken Ottoman ship’
Aydemir said that the goal of TINA was to recover a sunken Ottoman ship, adding, “It has not been possible so far to remove an Ottoman ship and present it to academics. We cannot display even one example of a sea fleet that was dominant in the Mediterranean in the 16th century.”
Obruk said the sunken ships and ancient sites were unprotected and illegal diving damaged them. He said, “After the removal of objects that could be displayed in museums, it is a tradition to show the remains to the world. But we cannot explain to officials. When diving is forbidden, a sunken ship is robbed in three-five years. It is not possible to prevent it.”
He said Turkey did not have rich natural beauties like the Red Sea since it is located in a tropical climate zone, but was rich in terms of sunken ships. “For example, there are sunken ships from various periods in Bodrum’s Yassıada Island. A few years ago, we requested to take photos when we organized the World Underwater Screening Championship, but we were refused. However, the team included people working for world leading organizations. We missed a big promotion opportunity,” he said.