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Recently Discovered Ancient Iranian Shipwreck in Persian

Gulf Described by Archaeologists as a Death Trap


10 November 2006




LONDON, (CAIS) -- “Death Trap!” This is what archeologists call the area 70 meters below the waters of the Persian Gulf where nearly two months ago the remains of a merchant ship belonging to either of the two dynastic superpowers of Ancient world, namely the Parthian (248 BCE - 224 CE) or Sassanid (224-651 CE) dynastic empires, were discovered. Lack of sufficient facilities has turned salvation of this Partho-Sassanid shipwreck a challenging task.


The Persian Gulf is a hot spot for oil companies whose ships continuously sweep over this body of water searching for new oil and gas resources. Nevertheless, until last September no one was aware of the existence of an ancient ship sunken in the Persian Gulf near the port of Siraf until the local fishermen got hold of an unknown giant ship below the waters. Later, the Darya-Kav-e Jonub Company (Southern Sea Investigation Co.) was commissioned by the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) to investigate the area. Initial studies by this company unveiled a mystery: A humongous ship and its cargo have been lying below the waters for centuries.


Once the news was spread, archeologists from all over the country and abroad were excited to start excavation of the ship, not knowing of the huge obstacles ahead.


Manager of the Southern Sea Investigation Co., Zolfaqar Arabzadeh, says: “Bringing the sunken ship and its cargo out of the water is a real feat. Part of the task goes back to having enough expertise while the other part has to do with the facilities needed for this job. The ship and its cargo are at a depth of 70 meters of the Persian Gulf. Going to such depth without necessary facilities would result to death after only a few minutes. This is why we have no choice but using a technique called saturation diving which is a well-known method in diving for objects. This technique enables the diver to get deep in the sea using a combination of Oxygen, Hydrogen and Helium … Besides, taking out the cargo and the ship requires having skilled divers, but their number in Iran does not exceed a handful.”


Commonly, saturation diving allows professional divers to live and work at depths greater than 50 meters (165 feet) for days or weeks at a time.


Only highly professional and experienced divers may carry on excavations at the depth of 70 meters where the ancient Iranian shipwreck is located. However, the “Saturation Diving” method brings the risks down to a minimum. Yet this method was never used in Iran in the past and so even the most professional divers would need some training sessions, typically four weeks long, to get familiar with this new technology.


“The importance of taking the cargo out of the water would result in the introduction of a new technique in Iran which is unique in its own special way. To this date, the technique has been used by non-Iranian divers in Iran and costs millions of dollars,” adds Arabzadeh.


The use of compressed air in diving is the method commonly practiced by Iranian divers. Such method enables the diver to dive down to a depth of 50 meters at maximum for a limited period of time. Should the same “traditional” technique be used by divers at the depth of 70 meters, a maximum of 5 minutes is all they can endure the pressure on their lungs. Staying at such depth longer than this period would exponentially raise the risk of death. Even the first five minutes is not a hundred percent safe as some believe that it could cause permanent breathing problems.


40 meters is the maximum permitted depth to which a person may dive according to world standards. A combination of helium and oxygen would be required if one wishes to go deeper down.


Captain Mehdi Masoumi, the retired first skipper of Iran’s Marine Forces who served for 28 years during his career, speaks of the challenges of the Persian Gulf shipwreck excavations: “Had this ancient ship been discovered at a depth of 40 to 50 meters, there would have been no need for sophisticated diving equipments. The need for such facilities has always been felt in Iran, especially by its Marine Force. The country’s petroleum installations which are considered vital for Iran must have become equipped with such technology long ago, but today we can see that it was never acquired. This is while the Iranian oil companies could extract oil from the depth of 80 and even 90 meters in the Persian Gulf. At present, enormous amount of money is spent by the country’s oil companies for hiring Non-Iranian divers to do the job at deeper levels. We do hope that the salvation of this shipwreck would open the gates to this technique in Iran.”



With thanks to Ms. Maryam Tabeshian, Chief Editor of CHN for providing the Video Clip of the Shipwreck in Persian Gulf.



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Extracted From/Source: Cultural Heritage News Agency (CHN)

Please note the above-news is NOT a "copy & paste" version from the mentioned-source. The news/article above has been modified with the following interventions by CAIS: Spelling corrections; -Rectification and correction of the historical facts and data; - Providing additional historical information within the text; -Removing any unnecessary, irrelevant & repetitive information.

     All these measures have been taken in order to ensure that the published news provided by CAIS is coherent, accurate and suitable for academics and cultural enthusiasts who visit the CAIS website.



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