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This morning, we proceeded with the ISIS to continue side scan operations off the SE coast of Zannone. However, about 20 minutes into our first survey line we realized that numerous buoys were laid across our intended path. These buoys are connected to fishing nets, which could cause damage to our survey equipment. We took the decision to move to the other side of the island, specifically the outer lines in deeper waters. In the coming days, we will return to the areas we tried to survey today in the hope that the fisherman would have retrieved their nets. On the whole, the survey is progressing well and we have a number of interesting targets that we will be returning to later this week.
Day two of the planned survey of Zannone went off without a hitch. The weather has been perfect for survey and Timmy, Aaron and Paul added more area to that covered during the first day. A portion of the site we have selected to survey has clearly been visited by fishing trawlers and that may affect the results we have seen in this area. The mass of holiday boaters have departed and we now have just a few dozen around us.
Meanwhile on Fortaleza, Eric has worked out the interface problems between the ROV and our new manipulator skid and it’s up and running. It turns out it was just some ROV “brain surgery” and things started to click. Eric spent some time practicing and was able to handle a ceramic mug without destroying it – a definite necessity in the field of archeology. It might be tricker when in the water, doing it for real. When needed the skid holding the digital camera and flash, typically located under the vehicle, will be removed and the manipulator skid attached in its place. The manipulator is controlled from the surface through the vehicle. This allows us to recover items of interest for further study.
Following our arrival at Ponza yesterday evening, we carried out all necessary preparations for today’s operations. One team set off on the ISIS to start the side scan sonar survey around the island of Zannone. We are running long (over 5 nautical miles) survey lines that take approximately one and a half hours to complete. The area of study is far from the main anchorages of Ponza and one would actually think that the place is quiet. However, back at our anchorage at Il Frontone, we were quickly reminded that Ponza is hosting hundreds of boats (of all sizes) that have travelled here for the long weekend, tomorrow being the feast of St Peter and St Paul.
Back on the Fortaleza, Eric and Craig were busy all day working on the ROV so as to install and try out out the new manipulator arm. This is no mean feat and this job is set to occupy them for the next few days.
Shortly after 3PM our project team departed the now bustling harbor of Ventotene and headed north west toward Ponza, the largest Island of the Italian Pontine Islands archipelago. The Island, located 33 Km south of Cape Circeo in the Tyrrhenian Sea, was inhabited from neolithic through Roman times. Except for a stretch during the Middle Ages when it was abandoned due to constant raids by Saracens and pirates it has been inhabited into modern times as well.
In Roman times, like our recently departed Ventotene, Ponza was used as an exile venue for high station Roman elite such as Nero Caesar, Agrippina the Younger and Julia Livilla while awaiting their fate for real or imagined transgressions against the more powerful.
But it isn’t Ponza that brings us to this part of the Tyrrhenian Sea; it is the uninhabited Island of Zannone lying about 10 Km to the northeast of Ponza. This small Island was chosen as our next survey location as it stands in the pathway of vessels heading to and from the port of Rome and the newly colonized lands to the south and west. An additional important criteria was that it apparently has not be subjected to concentrated bottom trawl fishing which generally destroys ancient ship wrecks.
We plan to use Ponza to support our efforts to provide the first ever cultural heritage sea-floor survey around the Island of Zannone. This will start Monday morning and we hope to spend a week surveying the sea floor out to approximately 150 meters in depth. Stay tune for our finds.
This morning we set off to complete the sub bottom profiler survey of the Ventotene shipwrecks. This operation calls for close navigation to the sites as the fish has to be towed precisely over the site. We obtained some great data which show that the parts of the cargo are still buried under the sediment. These files will be sent to an expert in sub bottom profiler data so as they can be better analyzed. Initial observations point to at least 1.5 meters of archaeological deposits under what is currently visible. This morning’s work brought our 2010 season at Ventotene to an end. Once on board, we found Jason, our engineer, preparing Sunday Lunch, a grand affair of seafood, pasta and capunata. A great meal after what has been a great stay on the island.