A team of U.K. scientists were conducting a survey at the bottom of the Black Sea in 2015, to see if they could learn any lessons from the past concerning climate change. The researchers wanted to study evidence of how humans had coped with rising sea levels some 12,000 years ago. But instead, what they found on the seabed off Bulgaria astonished and amazed them. An eerily well-preserved treasure trove of sunken ships, dating from more than a thousand years ago and up to the 19th century was laid out before them. Indeed, the vast collection of ghost ships gave up an intriguing insight into human maritime history and yielded some fantastically spooky imagery.
The team, from the University of Southampton’s Black Sea MAP – Maritime Archaeological Project – in England, returned to explore the underwater area for the next two years. And the 2016 and 2017 investigative seasons saw more astonishing discoveries. The scientists were exploring the Bulgarian seabed using sophisticated sonar techniques, remotely operated vehicles and dive missions.
Environmental conditions in the Black Sea are extremely unusual. Jon Adams, Centre for Maritime Archaeology director at the University of Southampton, was the project’s leader and he spoke to National Geographic magazine in 2016. He explained, “When the last ice age ended about 12,000 years ago, the Black Sea was really the Black Lake.” Apparently, as that geological era came to an end and temperatures rose, salt water began to flow through the Bosporus Strait into the Black Sea, which had previously been replenished by freshwater from rivers.