An estimated 1 million ancient shipwrecks litter the seafloor around the globe, proving a tempting target for looters and a nightmare for archaeologists and governments to protect.
But that could be set to change with the advent of a submarine alarm that can identify the telltale sounds of approaching treasure hunters in the hubbub of the oceans.
Recent technological advances have been a boon for underwater research – improvements in GPS navigation, sonar and diving gear mean ancient shipwrecks are more accessible than ever.
But archaeologists worry that the same advances will also benefit looters seeking to make a quick profit.
Tuncay Akal of the TÜBİTAK - Marmara Research Center in Kocaeli, Turkey, is a member of an international research team designing an early warning system that can identify plunderers by their acoustic signature and alert officials of their presence.