Titanic explorer: Ancient shipwrecks lost to trawlers

A map shows the search area between Halicarnassus, Knidos and Kamiros. Bob Ballard thinks that this area has many wrecks of ancient cargo ships.

By Dan Vergano - USA Today

Lost in a Black Sea tempest, the ancient shipwreck waited 2,300 years to be discovered.

And it took the swipe of just one passing trawler for the secrets held in the bones of its long-drowned crew to be lost forever.

The sad tale of the shipwreck called Eregli E, found in 2011 by a team led by Titanic explorer Robert Ballard, will be told in a National Geographic Channel documentary, Wrecks of the Abyss.

Premiering on Sunday (7 p.m. ET/PT), the show is a five-part series called Alien Deep With Bob Ballard featuring the noted explorer.

"The deep ocean is the largest museum on Earth is what we are finding," says Ballard, who heads the University of Rhode Island's Institute for Archaeological Oceanography.

"But trawlers just devastate a wreck. It's like driving a bulldozer through a museum."

Best known for leading a team that in 1985 found the Atlantic Ocean resting place of Titanic, Ballard and his team have uncovered about 26 ancient shipwrecks in the Black Sea since 1999.

They date from the era of the Crusades to the heyday of ancient Egypt.

A deep layer of oxygen-free water more than 300 feet down blankets the Black Sea, preserving shipwreck timbers and, as the Eregli E (pronounced EH-ray-lee) wreck showed, human bones.

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