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‘Whale ribs, meteorites and chairs’
FROM something that might possibly be a fossilised whale bone to several broken sunbeds, the live feed from the exploration of part of the seabed off the island’s southern coast makes fascinating viewing.
Famed explorer Robert Ballard’s expedition over the Eratosthenes Seamount is currently collecting images during sweeps of the area using the latest technology to explore the sea floor some 70 miles off the island.
After two days of exploring, the team’s underwater robots, operating at 800 to 1,000 metres, yesterday reached the summit of the Eratosthenes, going over terrain from a previous sweep and then turned west to head to unexplored territory to the west.
On Friday night they came across what appeared to be fossilised rib bones commentators suggested might have come from a whale, perhaps even 40,000 years old.
Commentators on the live feed described the find as “spectacular” and marked it as a target for further examination.
In another area what are believed could be fossilised mammal vertebrae were also spotted, and later yesterday the ROV picked up what was thought to be a meteorite. “That’s what we’re calling it until someone tells us different,” said one of the team.
While images deemed significant must be sent for examination to determine the exact nature of what was recorded, there was no doubting the nature of the two sunbeds found at 85 metres, or the third some distance away an hour or so later. Other bits of metal including what looked like a small metal bowl or an ashtray were also found.
Watchers were also treated to a close-up of a kite-fin shark, totally black with huge eyes, and other sea creatures such as clams.
Speaking via satellite phone from his ship the EV Nautilus, Ballard told the Cyprus Mail he and his team, which comprises of geologists, marine biologists and oceonologists, would remain off the coast of Cyprus for the next two weeks.
The expedition’s main aim is to examine the Eratosthenes Seamount, one of the largest features on the Eastern Mediterranean seafloor and about 120 km long and 80 km wide. Its peak lies at the depth of 690 metres and it rises 2000 metres above the surrounding seafloor.
“There is a trench just to the south of Cyprus and the trench is trying to eat up the Mediterranean as it comes towards them, this is the collision which is going on between the African plate and the Eurasian plate,” said Ballard, famed for his discovery of the Titanic.
He said the intense undersea activity is responsible for many of the earth tremors felt in Cyprus. Past explorations of the area have shown the existence of a liquid that might contain methane
EV Nautilus is equipped with state-of-the-art exploration technology and remotely operated vehicles named Hercules and Argus, which are being used to view the seafloor with high definition video, take environmental measurements and collect geological and biological samples.
In addition to the Eratosthenes Seamount project, Ballard says that Cyprus will feature on a television special to be broadcast on National Geographic Channel later this year.
The entire expedition is being streamed live by satellite to the internet at www.nautiluslive.org and following Cyprus, Nautilus will head north to conduct mapping operations in the Southeast Aegean Sea near Bodrum, Turkey.