The Battle of the Egadi Islands was fought on March 10, 241 BC, between the fleets of Roma and Carthage. It was the final, decisive battle of a war that was ongoing for 24 years and resulted in the conquest of Sicily; more importantly, this battle determined a victor for military dominion of the sea. This latter aspect secured Roma as the global superpower and altered the course of history, especially as pertains to developments in the west. The Battle of the Egadi Islands saw the clash of more than 400 ships, of which about 100 sunk during the fighting. The battle caused some 30,000 casualties and is considered one of the most violent naval battles in history.
The landscape of the battle was discovered some years ago by the joint effort of the archaeologists of the Soprintendenza del Mare of Sicily, led by Professor Tusa and the RPM Nautical Foundation, which brought state-of-the-art survey capabilities and financed part of the research. This battle site is a sensational discovery and is considered one of the most relevant archaeological achievements of recent years: for the first time, the landscape of a naval battle of ancient times was been located together with associated materials. Over the years following the discovery, RPM and SOPMare conducted field research each summer on the site, surveying a wide area around the archipelago with sidescan sonar and multibeam technology, locating and recovering artifacts with an ROV while onboard the research vessel Hercules.
The GUE/SopMare 2017 Campaign, for the first time, saw the use of divers employed on the bottom as the main tool for additional investigation on some of the areas where artifacts associated with the Battle of Egadi of 241 BC had been located in previous campaigns by RPM and SopMare.
A total of 30 research divers from Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) took part in the 3 weeks of operation. The use of divers proved to be a very effective integration to the instrumental researches carried out from surface and brought several new important findings. The direct presence of properly trained and operational humans on the sea floor made a difference in spotting artifacts, especially in rocky areas where artifacts encrusted by marine life become virtually invisible to any means of surface electronic investigation. The use of a team of divers on the bottom also allowed the implementation of additional means of investigation, including metal detector surveys, extraction of core samples from the bottom, and dynamic prospections of teams using diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs), providing close and effective inspection of relatively vast areas of the sea floor.
A number of prospections of the sea floor were executed by team of divers using DPVs. Divers started from a given reference point, such as the position of a ram or other finding, and deployed cave line (knotted every 3 meters) while navigating, in order to maintain a precise sense of the area explored, to facilitate the survey of artifacts encountered, to ensure ability to locate the artifacts on subsequent dives, and to allow the team to get back to the starting point for ascent and decompression. Prospections were around the positions of ram #9, ram #12, ram #13, and ram #6. Most of the findings during 2017’s campaign were the result of such prospections.