French underwater archeological exploration ship, the Alfred-Merlin. The Alfred Merlin, flagship of the French scientific fleet, will sail the seas in search of some 200,000 wrecks lost in French maritime areas. Photo Credit: SOPA Images/Getty Images, Video: UNESCO

Society Mediterranean Sea14. September 2022

All Aboard to Explore (and Protect!) This Historic Underwater Site

A group of archaeologists from eight countries embarks on a mission to explore the Skerki Banks, a shallow region of the central Mediterranean Sea located between Sicily and Tunisia, to have a better understanding of the historic underwater site and thus better protect it.

“This is the main goal of the project: to know in order to protect and also in order to facilitate access to the public to […] those cultural resources of heritage,” says Alison Faynot, who leads the expedition for Unesco.

Researchers from Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, France, Italy, Morocco, Spain, and Tunisia will work from the Alfred Merlin, one of the world’s most sophisticated underwater archaeological research vessels. The expedition is twofold: first, exploring the Italian side of the Skerki Banks to take stock of the shipwrecks discovered in the 1980s and 1990s and then, exploring the Tunisian side to find out if shipwrecks and other artifacts lie on the seafloor – and in what condition. There could potentially be hundreds of shipwrecks in the area, and a better understanding of its content and condition makes for improved protection of the historic site.

Smithsonian Magazine

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