Mystery of the Ancient Seafarers

Bookshelf: Mystery of the Ancient Seafarers

Mystery of the Ancient Seafarers: Ancient Maritime Civilzation – Robert Ballard

I read this book while miserably ill in bed this past weekend, envying Tony the nine dives he was doing over two days with students. It was a small consolation – Ballard combines history of the various maritime civilisations with descriptions of research and exploration expeditions mounted to search for and examine undersea remains of the vessels used.

Mystery of the Ancient Seafarers
Published by National Geographic

The photography, as is usual for National Geographic, is magnificent, and ancient mosaics and frescoes are interspersed with paintings of how the ships must have looked in full sail, photos taken by the submersibles and divers working on the archaeological sites, and pictures of the submersible and other marine technology used to perform the exploration. Ballard’s writing style is engaging but he really comes into his own when he’s describing the voyages of discovery he was a part of.

I was particularly interested in the research being done in the Black Sea, which has only a very narrow channel leading out of it into the Mediterranean Sea. The freshwater draining into the Black Sea from the surrounding rivers drains out, but a deep layer of anoxic water – a dead zone devoid of any kinds of life – exists in the depths of the Black Sea where the water is never stirred up or refreshed. This provides a perfect preservation environment to the many shipwrecks which must be lying there as a result of the Black Sea being part of such important trading routes. Ballard and his team found a vessel with wood looking as though it was hewn yesterday, when it had been underwater for over 1,000 years.

The book is a large format hardcover, and a lovely addition to the library of anyone who is interested in the sea and its history. You can purchase it here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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