Exploring the Black Sea with robotic submersibles.
March 21, 2001 7:06 PM   Subscribe

Exploring the Black Sea with robotic submersibles. The Black Sea is the largest body of anoxic water in the world. A remarkable thing happens in such waters: wood, cloth, food, and other organic materials do not decay and disappear — ships that went to the bottom hundreds or thousands of years ago still rest on the seafloor in almost the same condition as when they sailed the surface. The trick is getting down into the depths to find them.
posted by lagado (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ahh.. I love the black sea, and I'm pretty sure I had the grandest time. The whole place, Sevastopol, though may be due to my poor memory, has a unique charming quality that I can hardly describe; I can only think of old architecture, by the bay, with small cafés on corners, beaches formed with hard stone, not sand that might be painful to walk on but still is fun, where the sky is blue and seems endless. My uncle you see, was in the Russian navy at the time, before he became from what I hear a divorced drunk who never visits his daughter. Hmm. Anyway, I have temporal flashbacks that might somehow resemble this picture. There's more info over at the official site.

Ohh and, heh, the sea exploration seems really really cool. I'm hoping they find Noah's arc or something, maybe even garden of Eden, maybe both, like a two for one.
posted by tiaka at 7:35 PM on March 21, 2001

I've never visited this area but would like to one day. The Black Sea sea has a facinating history and is so little known about in the West.

I recently read a book about it:

Black Sea: birth of civilzation and barbarism (can't find a link right now)

I seem to recall, tiaka, that you once said that you were born in Kazahkstan? Another very interesting part of the world I'd like to visit.
posted by lagado at 4:40 AM on March 22, 2001

I like to flaunt that around, most people are born in such boring places, well, at least from the perspective of the American culture and all. Funny though, I'd mention and many people have trouble imagining where the country is, it's the largest Ex-Soviet republic for god's sake. I mean really. My Grandfather worked in the coal mines over in Ekibastuz, did you know that the town had the largest coal powered power plant in the soviet union? but not to worry, there was more than enough radioactive accidents, the place was located near the nuclear polygon, where the army tested the stuff.

We moved to Stavropol, yet another interesting place, because it's the largest Russian city close to the chechnya, a lot of the terrorist bombing took place there.
posted by tiaka at 6:19 AM on March 22, 2001

i think i found the book lagado mentioned. is that it? it sounds really good.
posted by Sean Meade at 9:03 AM on March 22, 2001

I can't read the phrase "robotic submersibles" without hearing Mr. Burns say it in my head.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:18 AM on March 22, 2001

Sorry - I have a (chemically ignorant) question - if anoxic water has no oxygen in it, then what is it comprised of?

Last I heard, you couldn't have water without oxygen.
posted by chicobangs at 10:02 AM on March 22, 2001

It has no dissolved oxygen, i.e. molecules of O2 mingling with the H2O. Fish breathe dissolved oxygen, which is why they can't live in the Black Sea.
posted by kindall at 10:37 AM on March 22, 2001

Will they find undecayed bodies down there?

posted by amanda at 10:39 AM on March 22, 2001

It was my impression that the anoxic zone is 200+ feet down, so fish can live there, just not deep. Right?
posted by norm at 1:13 PM on March 22, 2001

If I could go back in time, one of the things I'd like to see is the waterfall as the rising Mediterranean flowed into the Black Sea. They say it lasted over 100 years.

It was this event that Pitman and Ryan believe could be the flood recorded in the Book of Genesis. The salt water poured through the deepening channel, creating a waterfall 200 times the volume of Niagara Falls (anyone who has ever traveled to the base of the falls on the Maid of the Mist will have a sense of the power involved). In a single day enough water came through the channel to cover Manhattan to a depth at least two times the height of the World Trade Center, and the roar of the cascading water would have been audible at least 100 miles away. Anyone living in the fertile farmlands on the northern rim of the sea would have had the harrowing experience of seeing the boundary of the ocean move inland at the rate of a mile a day.
posted by dhartung at 3:35 PM on March 22, 2001

Sean Meade graciously located the book I mentioned and highly recommend as a great introduction to the history and politics of the region.

Unlike the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea is the draining point of several of Europe's rivers, the Danube being the main one. Along with a lot of fresh water, these rivers deliver so much organic material into the Sea every day that there is a build up of nitrogen. This nitrogen replaces the oxygen and makes the water anoxic (below the surface, thanks norm).

The Black Sea still teams with marine life though but only near the coasts (and this ecology is now under threat from pollution). If for some reason the Black Sea emptied into the Mediterranean apparently it would cause a monumental ecological disaster.
posted by lagado at 5:17 PM on March 22, 2001

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