It has been well documented that a thriving city in ancient Greece was located on the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth. This city, Eliki, was a principal member of the Achaean League of city-states, and was an important trading port in the Gulf. Eliki probably had close ties with ancient Mycenae and her port may have been used by the heros of the Trojan wars (The Iliad - 600K!). Eliki had established colonies in what is now Italy and Turkey, further demonstrating its importance and maturity.
We know about Eliki through the writings of the ancient historian Heroditus and Pausanias, among others. We know it hosted the cult to the sea god Poseidon, and Eliki's temple of Poseidon was famous throughout the ancient world, even rivaling that of the Oracle of Delphi. The Greek geographer Strabo described a huge golden statue of Poseidon in the temple grove.
In 373 BC a strong earthquake struck the region, and caused great damage to Delphi on the north side of the Gulf of Corinth. On the south shore, Eliki was destroyed and submerged under the Gulf. Pausanias wrote that only the tops of the trees could be visible from the surface, and for generations fishermen used to moor their boats to the tip of a trident held by a huge golden statue of Poseidon which protruded from the water.
The disaster was notable in that there was forewarning by animals. It was the first documented case of rats, centipedes, snakes, and other vermin filling the steets in the days before the earthquake, heading for high ground. The earthquake struck at night in the winter. Out of more than 10,000 inhabitants of the city, there were no survivors.
Over the millenia the city was covered by sediment, and other earthquakes have caused more slumping of the coastal plain, further submerging the city. Eliki passed from history to myth, with the exception of the solid documentary evidence of it's existance and demise.
In recent times, there have been attempts to find the city and the golden statue of Poseidon. In the last century, a German archeologist recovered the only existing physical evidence of the city - a single bonze coin with the head of Poseidon and the inscribed name of the city in which it was struck - Eliki.
A famous Greek professor of archeology, the late Dr. Marinatos, believed that Eliki existed. Dr. Marinatos is famous for having found the ruins of Thira, believed by many to be ancient Atlantis. Marinatos felt that Eliki was buried under the land, having been covered by sediment over the 3000 years since its submergence and geologically uplifted.
In 1973 Jacques Cousteau and his crew dove on the presumed site of Eliki, finding only murkey water and heavy sediment - deposited by two major rivers carrying silt down from nearby mountains. They found no evidence of Eliki.
In 1974 Hoppy "loaned" me to Dr. Harold E. Edgerton, a famous adventurer and professor of physics at MIT. Dr. Edgerton was a co-founder of the fortune 300 company EG&G, and the inventor of sidescan sonar, among other things. "Doc" Edgerton was in Greece with his subbottom profiler and sidescan system to try to locate the lost city of Eliki. Geological oceanographers from IOKAE, Professor Marinatos, Doc and I traveled by car to the Peloponnesus and the site.
On this expedition, we had a Greek navy landing craft (LCT) with a land drilling rig rigged over the starboard side. The scientists were staying in the Eliki Hotel on the shore of the Gulf. I was sharing a hotel room with "Doc". Doc would pass around his postcards of a falling milk drop and a bullet flying through an apple to any curious onlookers. Doc Edgerton utilized physical and mathematical principals to open hitherto unseen rhelms. We would get up every morning at dawn and swim in the cold waters before breakfast and starting work.
Usually, the mornings were misty at that time of year. The LCT would be anchored offshore overnight, and in the early morning the landing craft would appear out of the mist and fog, and would run up onto the beach dropping its ramp down on the cobbles for us to board. It was D-Day plus 32 years. We would partake of lunch in a similar fashion, driving the LCT to the nearest taverna on the beach and dropping the ramp near the tables with the scientists charging off the ramp to attack not enemy troops, but plates of Greek lamb, tsatsiki, retsina, and mousaka.
The work was very exciting. Doc and I would run his "homebrew" pinger interfaced with an EPC graphic recorder. I recall we were using 5 KHz as the frequency, and we were looking for subsurface targets - hard returns reflecting the sound from under the seafloor. When we would get a strong target, we would position fix using triangulation with landmarks ashore (GPS hadn't been invented yet) and anchor the LCT on a three-point mooring with the drilling rig positioned as closely as possible over the subsurface target. Then the drillers would begin taking core samples.
I remember the intense excitement as the cores were retrieved and split open. I was expecting to see ancient golden rings, artifacts, fragments of marble, fragments of mosaic floors. Many times we were awake all night during the drilling operations, eagerly anticipating each core section. Doc showed me how to "cat nap" on these night drilling missions, taking his rest sitting up in 10 or 15 minute dozes.
We found many sonar targets but the drilling produced no proof of Eliki or any human artifacts. Doc would chuckle and ask what I would expect to find if New York City was submerged and a 2-inch diameter core was taken over a random position. (asphalt?). Even though we finished the project with no dramatic result, little did I know that the data we collected would reveal something of great value a decade later!
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