italian version

Ancient Wrecks

For over 10 years, DAEDALUS catamaran has been sailing the Tyrrhenian Sea, testing apparatuses and instruments for great depth explorations.


In 2002 the special long range side-scan sonar revealed the presence of an object at a depth of -320 meters on the brink of a submerged canyon in the Gulf of Asinara, between Corsica and Sardinia. There is only one way to find out what it exactly is: dive down to inspect it.
At that time on board of the catamaran there was the PLUTO UX, the first Pluto; the prototype which was developed in 1980 and then served as an experimental platform for all subsequent developments. The PLUTO UX has been designed to reach depths of -300m but it had sufficient margin to exceed its depth limit in order to inspect that contact at -330m. Further additional steps were necessary to determine the precise position of the contact by means of cross checking various sonar bearings, then the catamaran was stopped just above the point and its dynamic positioning system activated to automatically hold position. The PLUTO was launched vertically down, pulled downwards by the weight of the expendable ballast. Once on the bottom, the ballast was released through a remote control and the vehicle was then able to move freely. At this point the navigation sonar was switched-on and surrounding inspection was performed beyond the visibility range. A few tens of meters away, the presence of the contact was detected and the Pluto navigated in that direction. With caution, as not knowing the nature of the object could lead to entanglement, the contact was approached and out of the darkness emerged piles of ancient amphorae.
Most of the cargo of this ancient Roman ship is composed of amphorae which appear to be the type IIB Beltran, original of the Betic area (Spain, Cartagena) and presumably containing fish sauce "garum". The ship was evidently headed for Rome and during the passage through the Strait of Bonifacio was caught in a gale which caused her’s sinking.   It looks to be dated between the second and third century after Christ. This wreck appears to have been repeatedly damaged by the passages of  sea bottom dragged fishing nets which have distorted the entire top layer of amphorae, pieces of which seem to have been recently broken.


In 2007, the DAEDALUS catamaran, crewed only by Guido Gay and a second person, explored the depths of the Asinara Gulf using an improved version of the ship mounted side scan sonar that unveiled  a second  ancient Roman wreck at a depth of -190m.  The contact was immediately inspected by the PLUTO UX which revealed a moderate amount of amphorae of the Almagro 51 type, dating to the fourth century AD, as well as a pile of concretion which could be assumed to be a load of minerals.

These findings have been regularly registered and reported to the local Archaeological Heritage Superintendence of Sassari under the names DAEDALUS 1 and DAEDALUS 2. In the summer of 2007 further inspection was carried out on the contacts and together with the local authorities a number of amphorae were recovered.


In 2010 Guido Gay embarked on board the catamaran DAEDALUS the new PLUTO PALLA; a remotely-controlled underwater vehicle capable of diving down to -2000 m and with remarkably innovative characteristics.  This revolutionary vehicle makes it possible to continue the search for the wreck of the battleship Roma.  The exploration campaign is intensified and dives on side scan sonar contacts immediately prove the vehicle’s worthiness by uncovering further five ancient Roman wrecks. Many of the contacts only evidenced rock formation, but when from the sea bottom darkness  emerge piles of amphorae, it is always a thrill.

The DAEDALUS 3 wreck was identified at a depth of -480 m. The load was varied and included Dressel 20 amphorae, at the time used to transport oil and Almagro 51 amphorae for carrying “garum”.   This well identifies the Betic origins dating them on the period around the third century AD.  These discoveries proved the existence a of a well-defined sailing route  between Spain and Rome, which crossed the open seas and the dangerous passage through the Strait of Bonifacio.

At a depth of -360 m the DAEDALUS  4 has been discovered. Amphorae of Greek-Italic origin, therefore dated to the republican period BC are seen. Additionally three sets of lead anchors were identified.

While carrying on tests with the new long-range sonar, the nature of a hazy patch was checked out among a series of rocks emerging from a ridge on a muddy bottom.  And here the  DAEDALUS 5 wreck was discovered at a depth of -150 m. The wreck is an old wooden boat, old but not ancient, carrying square blocks of local granite pink trachyte. 

Finally, always in the Gulf of Asinara, a faint sonar contact at a depth of -820 m and only visible from certain directions, revealed to the PLUTO PALLA camera to be a new deposit of amphorae, the DAEDALUS 6. This has been the deepest and most difficult to find as lying on a muddy slope. But this wreck is, in our opinion, the most interesting due to the fact that, being it at great depths, it was not damaged by fishing nets, and that it is composed of a mixed cargo of amphorae revealing a coastal sailing path from Lusitania to the Betic and way up to Gaul followed by the fatal descent through the Bonifacio Strait. Of particular interest was the discovery of two new types of amphorae never seen before.

Given the abundance of discoveries, the Superintendent of Sassari decided to make sample recoveries on each of the located wrecks, so Guido arranged in the DAEDALUS workshop a specific tool that allowed the PLUTO to hook up to the handles of the amphorae and lift them up to the surface without any damage. To reach the goal the PLUTO operations were also assisted by diving the PLUTO 1000 at the same time.

On that same occasion one of the two strange amphorae was recovered from a depth of -820 m.

In the same year, 2010, the Daedalus on the way back from Sardinia to its home port of La Spezia, run across two additional interesting Roman shipwrecks:DAEDALUS 7 off the island of Capraia at a depth of -400 m, carrying a cargo of ancient Greek-Italic amphorae. The feather like structure grown on the amphora is an uncommon form of black coral: Parantipathes larix. DAEDALUS 8 off the island of Gorgona at a depth of -520 m, carrying cargo of amphorae model Dressel 1. Both these deposits are relatively damaged by trawling fishing nets and have been duly reported to the Superintendence of Tuscany and at the moment no further information is available.


In 2011, as usual during random transits of the catamaran, and while experimenting the new developments realized during the winter period, four additional wrecks have been identified. The DAEDALUS 9 just north of the island Capraia at a depth of -150 m, a field of amphorae almost completely devastated by the passage of trawled fishing nets. Followed by the DAEDALUS 10 to the South of the Island of Capraia at a depth of -410 m, with a seriously damaged cargo of Greek-Italic ancient amphorae. In September, en route back to its home port the DAEDALUS 11 was uncovered at a depth of -300 m West of the Capraia Island in Corsican waters. Unfortunately also this wreck is positioned on a fishing route, which during the years have contributed to its destruction. Another unexpected and unlikely finding DAEDALUS 12 at a depth of -400 m in Ligurian waters South of the island Tino, identified a cargo of amphorae dating from to the ancient Greek-Italic II / III century BC. Also this sight has been damaged by fishing, but nevertheless still considered interesting and which has been given a certain amount of attention.


In 2012, the DAEDALUS sailing south to Sardinia in its search of the wreck of the Battleship Roma, came across, in the waters of Corsica, of an additional Roman shipwreck DAEDALUS 13 at a depth of -340 m with a cargo composed for half of amphorae and the remaining half of pottery, jugs and lamps. During a night navigation, heading back north from Sardinia, always sailing with calm weather along the coast of Corsica, decision was taken to investigate an unusual sonar echo on the slope of a canyon and there the Roman shipwreck DAEDALUS 14 has been discovered at a depth of -400 m.


In 2013 new discoveries are always happen in the area of Tuscan Islands and Corsica.

DAEDALUS 15 in the Macinaggio to -325 m depth. Prevalence of Gallic 4 amphorae, dating from the second century A.D.
DAEDALUS 16 off the island Gorgona to -465 m depth, cargo of Dressel 1 amphorae.

Off the coast of Gorgona at a depht of -440 m, very interesting for a mixed cargo of Rodie amphorae, of Punic amphorae and some elegant shape pitchers. It seems to be dated to the first or second century BC. Ship coming from the East, perhaps direct perhaps in Marseille. About this wrecks, with the direction and supervision of the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage in Tuscany, we have performed the recovery of an amphora Rodia. Inside of the amphora we have found abundant remains of the content: a quantity of small seeds. Soon it is expected the recovery of a jug, always by way of the sampling.

North of Capo Corso at a depht of -360 m, what appeared to be a pile of rocks on a flat and muddy seabed, to an examination of the French Superintendent proved to be the load of obsidian blocks of an ancient sunken ship. Two amphoras testify of the sinking.


Off the coasts of Bastia at a depht of -425 m
The amphorae were scattered because of trawl fishing.

West of Gorgona at a depht of -400 m a cargo of Dressel 1 amphora and the view of a part of anchor.


In the Ligurian waters, at a depht of -500 m
an ancient well preserved cargo, not damaged by trawling, and the discovery of 4 anchor stocks (that define the position of the bow of the wreck), Dressel 1 amphorae and vases dated the second century B.C.

DAEDALUS 22 fra Capraia e Corsica, a -380m
Carico uniforme di anfore Almagro 51C per salsa di pesce. Proveniente dalla Lusitania, III sec.d.C.

27 miglia a Ovest di Livorno, a -515m
giacimento molto ben conservato perché poco frequentato dai pescherecci. Anfore di vari tipi, molte senzapuntale ma con fondo piano.


DAEDALUS 24 al largo di Bastia, a -365m
carico uniforme di Dressel 1B

DAEDALUS 25 al largo di Capo Sagro, a -480m
anfore greco italiche
questo è il relitto della cernia (30kg)


A fishing boat of Santa Margherita found in its nets 4 Roman amphorae. Very correctly they delivered them to the Carabinieri.
The "Soprindendenza of Liguria” took the findings and contacted me to locate the field. The fishing boat had given references of its route, but didn't know where it had met the wreck. So I took the references and with only one sonar pass I have located the wreck about 20 miles south of Portofino.
The PLUTO PALLA immediately sent to the deep see, discovered a substantial mound of Dressel 1 amphorae with the unusual presence of what I supposed to be "brindisine amphorae”.
At 720 meters deep, there are no red prawns and the big sea eels their predators, instead I could see a large monkfish, squatted among the shards, waved his bait.
Also it appeared a mysterious "needle fish" of which I have just taken a blurred picture.

pesce spillo

Returning to La Spezia from Sardinia I sent the new MULTIPLUTO to see an old sonar contact detected ten years ago. I discovered a new Roman ship wreck.
This discovery located to 640 meters deep, to the west of the island Pianosa, is absolutely intact: no fishing trawl has ever ruined it.
It's very significant if compare with the devastation of almost all other shipwrecks. For some prawns are deleted exhibits and artifacts from two thousand years ago, almost as a deliberate devastation of today's Muslim fanatics.
This field shows a vessel carrying of Dressel 1 amphorae still intact. Two anchor stocks are also recognizable in the original position in the bow (of course every part of wood has disappeared).

A tenuous Sonar contact off Corsica’s Cape Sagro and a MULTIPLUTO dive, discover a sunken Roman ship, cargo of which consisted of amphorae and a large quantity of stone like objects, scope and object of which still remains to be discovered.
Depth of 590 meters.


One last  MULTIPLUTO dive to find more remains of sunken Roman ship.
Located at a depth of 340 meters, 7 miles east of Macinaggio, at the extreme north of  Corsica.
Being in French waters, I have not been able to perform a detailed inspection, all I was able to witness in the submerged valley was a series of amphorae dragged there by bottom trawls. I was not able to inspect the main field but I detected the presence of Dressel 1C in combination with “Brindisine” type  amphorae. If confirmed by archaeologists, said not well known combination, could  substantiate the existence of new ancient maritime trade routes.

DAEDALUS 29 - resti di nave romana affondata 
DAEDALUS 29 - anfore Dressel 1C in associazione ad anfore Brindisine


A good weather interval in the month of September allowed sailing back on DAEDALUS 17, together with the Superintendence of Tuscany, to recover some previously identified artifacts.  In the vicinity, there was an detected but never explored sonar contact.  A quick dive to -460 meters and MULTIPLUTO discovered a vast deposit of well-preserved amphorae including amphorae of the Oberaden 74 and Laetana 1 type of Spanish origin and dating back to the first century AD.


These vast amphorae deposits positioned on a uniform muddy bottom, provide shelter to delicious prawns, population of which drastically increase during breeding season (May-June) thus providing to fatten congers, ferrets, a kind of scorpion fish, Munida crabs whose chopstick like claws are maneuvered with lightning speed to catch nearby flying  amphipods or sea fleas, Paromola spider crab known for using its last pair of legs to grab objects to position over its head and in certain occasions one can observe lobsters and groupers.

Guido Gay had engaged in negotiations with the French DRASSM board and the Italian Superintendence of Cultural Heritage to reach formal exploration cooperation agreements. In fact, all these findings were randomly discovered through experimental  explorations of the depths; exploration triggered by the desire to improving and/or  develop new and better instruments. The same random discoveries allowed to realize that the ocean floors are littered in undiscovered wrecks and that the developed instrumentation is particularly  suited for their discovery.

We have realized that these very deep fortuitous discoveries are the only ones existing in the Ligurian, Tyrrhenian and Northern Central Sea. The French DRASSM have a very modern ship, solely dedicated to archeology, but are lacking of detection instrumentation.  Italy makes use of Navy minesweepers equipped with advanced instrumentation, but due to high operational costs, interventions are sporadic and typically tailored to training activities.
The hope was to be able to frame DAEDALUS within an organic program, but unfortunately this was not possible due to lack of interest demonstrated by the institutions.