High-resolution Imaging of the M/S Dodekanisos Shipwreck Site off Deveboynu Burnu, Turkey
Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
© 2013 The Author. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology © 2013 The Nautical Archaeology Society
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Volume 42, Issue 1, pages 204–208, March 2013
How to Cite
Brennan, M. L. (2013), High-resolution Imaging of the M/S Dodekanisos Shipwreck Site off Deveboynu Burnu, Turkey. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 42: 204–208. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-9270.2012.00367.x
- Issue published online: 4 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
An oceanographic expedition to the south-west Aegean Sea by E/V Nautilus in August 2011 located the wreck of the Greek motor ship, Dodekanisos (Figs 1 and 2), at 486 m depth off Deveboynu Burnu, ancient Knidos, at the western tip of the Datça peninsula. We were exploring and imaging a series of rock ridges and slope failures west of the point when we came across this large ship with sidescan sonar. The sea-bed in this area, which has been a navigational hazard since ancient times, is also treacherous for underwater exploration, including a rock ridge that rises almost 200 m from the sea-floor. Due to this rough terrain, bottom trawling and other fishing activities are impeded, thereby allowing the wreck of the Dodekanisos to escape being draped with nets and fishing lines. The result is a clean and fairly safe wreck-site around which to conduct ROV operations. This allowed us to carry out high-resolution imaging of the shipwreck with the mapping systems on the vehicles. More importantly, the identification of this wreck while on site with the ROVs was made possible by the use of telepresence, as viewers in Greece found images of the ship and newspaper articles from the time of the sinking and sent them to us on Nautilus. This unprecedented event illustrates the power of live, publicly accessible expeditions of ocean exploration.
The motor ship, originally named Giorgio Orsini, was constructed in Ancona, Italy in 1931 in the Cantieri Navale Riuniti (CNR Ancona) shipyards, for the Societa Zaratina di Navigazione Company. It operated as a passenger ship until August 1940 when it was conscripted by the Italian navy as a gunboat. The 42.7-m-long ship took part in Italy's occupation of southern Greece until September 1943 when the Germans seized Athens. Then, in January 1944, Giorgio Orsini was sunk in Piraeus, Greece during an air raid on the port (War Sailors, ). After the war, the ship was raised, repaired, and reconstructed in Perama, Greece in 1947, then registered under the name Agios Nikolaos. In 1953, it was sold to Errikos Kuntz, Costas Zervos, I. Panopoulos, and S. Zikos, and renamed Dodekanisos. It operated as a passenger ship among the Dodekanese for the next five years from its home port in Rhodes (pers. comm. K. Staikouras, 2011).
On 22 March 1958, Dodekanisos was making the passage from Rhodes to Kos when it encountered a severe gale off Deveboynu Burnu at the western tip of the Datça peninsula, Turkey (Eλευθερια, 1958; Mακεδονια, 1958). The ship sank quickly and 28 of the 34 people on board died, including two of the owners, E. Kuntz and S. Zikos, as well as the captain of the ship, Evagelos Zervos, father of co-owner Costas Zervos (pers. comm. K. Staikouras, 2011). Rescue attempts were made by the coast guard from the nearby Greek islands of Kos, Simi, and Rhodes, as well as by a military airplane (Mακεδονια, 1958). Only six survivors were picked up by the motor ship Eptanisos along the Turkish coast (Eλευθερια, 1958).
In August 2011, E/V Nautilus conducted an oceanographic survey with sidescan sonar along SW-NE trending transect lines north of Deveboynu Burnu at the western end of the Daçta peninsula, Turkey. At the beginning of this survey, just north-west of the point, we encountered a strong target in the sonar that appeared to be a small warship (Fig. 3a). The ship appeared to be upright and was approximately 40 m in length. We made two dives on this wreck-site with ROVs Hercules and Argus; the first dive was to identify and reconnoitre the site, the second to image it with high-resolution mapping systems. On the first dive, the vehicle approached the wreck from the bow, which was easily visible in the vehicle's scanning sonar (Fig. 3b). During this dive, we made a video pass along the starboard side of the wreck. The second dive finished the imaging of the perimeter along the port side.
The second dive also allowed us to conduct a high resolution microbathymetry survey of the wreck-site with a BlueView 2250 kHz multibeam sonar, which is a standard imaging method we use on shipwreck sites (Roman et al., 2011). The survey of the Dodekanisos wreck was conducted at 15 m altitude and consisted of three 50-m-long passes. The multibeam sonar has a 90° field of view, which allowed us to cover the full width of the wreck with each pass. However, we conducted three passes separated by 3 m to ensure coverage across the full wreck, and avoid occlusions caused by the height of the ship's structure (pers. comm. G. Inglis, 2011). The result is a microbathymetry map showing the relief of the wreck on the sea-bed, including a slight list to starboard and a mound of sediment pushed up on the port side from where the ship sank into the mud (Fig. 3c).
On first approach, the anchor stowed in its hawsepipe was clearly visible, and the width of the bow suggested this was not a warship (Fig. 4a). As we moved along the side of the ship with Hercules from bow to stern, it appeared to be a passenger ship constructed of welded steel and wooden decks (Fig. 4b). The decks are heavily deteriorated, especially in areas where the wood is not attached to steel supports, as visible in Figures 4c, d and e. Similarly, the steel is heavily corroded and falling apart in many places, such as the walls of the pilothouse pictured in Figure 4d. On top of the bridge, we observed the remains of the wheel and the ship's gyroscope compass, which had fallen to the floor (Fig. 4e). With the exception of the materials degrading with time underwater, the wreck is in good condition. The hull appears intact and is free of anthropogenic damage as would be seen if bottom trawling or other fishing activities had affected the wreck-site.
Dodekanisos is oriented NW-SE on the sea-bed with its bow facing north-west, the direction it was travelling on its last voyage. As is visible in the multibeam image (Fig. 3c), the wreck pushed up piles of mud on impact with the sea-bed and listed to starboard. The wreck did not sink deeply into the mud, as the rudder and propeller are still visible (Fig. 4f). The ship appears relatively undamaged; there is little debris around the site, and the hull does not appear to have suffered any damage as a result of the sinking. This and the fact that it is facing in its original direction of travel suggest it went down quickly. Today, the wreck is untouched, as it lies in an area of steep terrain that has allowed it to escape damage from fishing. A variety of biology was observed on the wreck, using its structure as an artificial reef, including a conger eel hiding in one of the open portholes, crabs, and numerous shrimp.
NautilusLive and M/S Dodekanisos
As important as this shipwreck is for Greek maritime history, the truly remarkable aspect of its discovery is the way telepresence allowed us to identify the ship and learn about it while we were still exploring the site. In 2010, Nautilus began broadcasting its expedition live through the internet to its website NautilusLive (www.nautiluslive.org). This new implementation of telepresence allowed for more than 200,000 visits from 115 countries during the course of the four-month 2010 expedition (Witten and O'Neal, 2011). Additionally, one feature of the website allows for viewers to submit questions to the scientists in the control van on the ship, which are then answered over the video feed. It was this feature that allowed us to identify Dodekanisos.
As soon as we began documenting the bow section of the wreck-site with Hercules, we knew that it was not a warship, as we had originally thought from the sonar image. However, there were few diagnostic features of the ship, besides its c.40 m length, for us to use to identify it without an expert in European shipbuilding. But while we were documenting the wreck-site on the first dive, a message came in through the website Q&A from a viewer in Greece:
Check this out! I'm quite sure that this is it! M/S Dodekanisos, sunk in 1958. It had its name written on both sides of its bow.—George Orfanos
Mr Orfanos also sent in links to Greek newspaper articles from 1958 that showed images of the ship and where it sank. While we did not find the name of the ship still preserved on the bow, the size, construction, and location of the shipwreck confirm its identity. Without the live global broadcast of the footage, the immediate identification of the wreck would not have been possible.
Secondly, about a month later, we received the following message:
I am writing to you regarding your recent discovery (M/S Dodekanisos, near Knidos, Turkey). I am very excited and emotionally thrilled, due to the reason that my grandfather owned this vessel and his father (my great grandfather) was the Captain of M/S Dodekanisos, who died tragically at this unforeseen accident.—Konstantinos Staikouras
Mr Staikouras, a naval architect and marine engineer, learned of our discovery and viewed the footage of the shipwreck on NautilusLive. Through further communication with him, we learned more about the ship's history and found additional images of the ship, such as the one pictured in Figure 2, which is from his family's personal archive.
This series of events demonstrates the power and value of telepresence to both maritime archaeology and ocean exploration. The discovery of the Dodekanisos wreck-site showcases some unforeseen benefits of ocean exploration, as the outreach programme enabled us to gain access to oral and family histories that do not exist in libraries or archives, which is where much of the information about this ship resided. As the archaeological community strives to move toward the in situ preservation as the first option according to the UNESCO convention, the ability of such outreach activities can move underwater archaeology in this new direction. Not only does this technology allow on-site explorers to receive information from the public, as in the case of Dodekanisos, but more importantly, it allows us to make such discoveries and deep-water sites accessible in real time. Publicly accessible and live presentation of shipwreck sites is one of the strengths of the Nautilus Exploration Program, and a strong example of possibilities for the future of deep-water archaeology.
This work is a tribute to Mr Staikouras’ great grandfather and all those who perished on the wreck in 1958. Thanks to Konstantinos Staikouras, George Orfanos, Evi Nomikou, James Delgado, Robert Ballard, Katy Croff Bell, Gabrielle Inglis, Chris Roman, Ian Vaughn, Tufan Turanli, Matt Slusher, Mike Filimon, Rhonda Moniz, Steve Bucklew, Brennan Phillips, Mike Filimon, John Ahern, Mary Nichols, Sarah Fuller, Alex DeCiccio, Harrison Zimmer, Alexis Catsambis, Dan Davis, Roderick MacLeod, Todd Viola and Sandra Witten.
- Eλευθερία, 1958, Eκφράζονται φόβοι ότι υπάρχουν και άλλα θύματα εκ του ναυαγίου του μότορσιπ ((Δωδεκάνησος)), 25 March.
- Mακεδονία, 1958, Nέα θαλάσσια τραγωδία εις τα ύδατα της Δωδεκανήσου: Mότορσιπ, με 32 επιβάτας και πλήρωμα ενέπεσεν εις σφοδρότατον τυφώνα και κατεποντ'ισθη μεταξύ Σύμης και Kω, 26 March.
- 2011, Development of high-resolution underwater mapping techniques. In Bell, K. L. C. and S. A. Fuller , (eds), New Frontiers in Ocean Exploration: The E/V Nautilus 2010 Field Season. Oceanography 24(1), supplement, p. 14–17. , , , , , , ,
- War Sailors Ship Forum, Accessed 22 November 2011. Available <http://warsailors.com/forum/read.php?1,51006,51006#msg-51006>.
- 2011, Education and outreach activities enabled by telepresence technology. In Bell, K. L. C. and S. A. Fuller , (eds), New Frontiers in Ocean Exploration: The E/V Nautilus 2010 Field Season. Oceanography 24(1), supplement, p. 12–13. and ,