August 15, 2005
Battle Find

Fark linked up news of the possible discovery of a 2200 year-old fleet of warships:

After two years of underwater searches around the [Aegates] islands, which lie west of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, experts last year found a bronze helmet and some amphorae from about 241 BC, the date of the decisive Roman victory over the Carthage fleet.

At around the same time, a team of Italy's famed art police busted a collector who had a ship's bronze battering ram from the same period on display in his home. It turned out the relic had been illegally looted using nets from the same area.

The battle of the Aegates Islans is where Rome finally crushed the Carthaginian navy, representing a turning point in the course of western history.

Right now the biggest problem is the potential site lies under some 200 feet of water. While the article says this makes it "impossible" to dive, this is not really the case. Expert Atlantic "treasure hunter" divers regularly go to these depths. It's not fun (in fact it's damned dangerous), but it is possible.

When it comes down to it though, I think I'd rather stay in the boat too.

Posted by scott at August 15, 2005 08:21 AM

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Getting down there isn't too hard, from what I understand. The problem is getting back up. You have to stop and decompress every so often - which means you'll spend roughly 15 minutes on the floor. As I remember it, you have stop roughly 5 minutes for every 15 feet or something like that - if anyone can confirm, that'd be great.

Secondarily, you've got to take a special mix down - oxygen and helium instead of the normal mix. Plus it's damn cold down there.

Posted by: ronaprhys on August 15, 2005 08:25 AM

According to Shadow Divers (the story of how two treasure divers discovered a U-boat off the coast of New Jersey), it's quite possible to dive to ~200 feet with regular air, but it's not for noobs or even moderately skilled divers. Nitrogen narcosis is a given at that depth, so it's quite dangerous and sometimes deadly. While common in the 90s, I'm not sure anyone still uses air at those depths.

Trimix is the latest thing, entering commercial and recreational diving (as I recall) in the late 90s. By substituting some of the nitrogen with helium, narcosis is avoided and I *think* time-at-depth is also increased. Regardless, getting rid of the narcosis problem makes the time on the bottom much more useful (no tunnel vision, no irrational panics, no clumsiness, etc.)

The time on the bottom at that depth (as described in the book) was more like 30-45 minutes, longer if spare "decompression" bottles were carried.

Drysuits apparently make the temperature at depth tolerable.

Three guys died diving that U-boat, one for no damned reason at all anyone could find out. Like I said, I'm perfectly happy to sit on the boat and watch the video.

Posted by: scott on August 15, 2005 08:53 AM

wuss. I'm strapping a tank on your ass and throwing you overboard. You'll see the wreck first-hand and you'll like it.

Posted by: ronaprhys on August 15, 2005 10:14 AM
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