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Sunday, January 6, 2013

POST 1038: JANUARY 06/ 2013: SINUESSA, ITALY (1958)

The Sinuessa Aphrodite (marble)

APHRODITE of SINUESSA - Thermal Baths of Aquae Sinuessanae

Early one morning, as I load my diving gear into the trunk of my Opel, a young Italian man approaches me...Hello, my name is Guido.  I have seen you often carrying diving gear...

His name turns out to Guido Pechetti and he lives in the apartment building across the street MICHELANGELO DE CARAVAGGIO.  We chat for some time, finding that Guido is a world class swimmer, having competed for Italy in the 1956 Rome Olympics.  Guido is also eager to become a SCUBA diver.

I invite him to come with me for the day, where I introduce him to the mysteries of SCUBA and Free Diving.  I drive him to the local Dive Shop, where he purchases Snorkeling equipment.  We soon become regular diving first limited to snorkeling.  I finally invite Guido to a meeting of AFSE SUBAQUA CLUB, where he is quickly accepted to join ... the first non-military member.  With access to bottles and regulator, I quickly teach Guido SCUBA. 

We make a number of trips along Amalfi Peninsula, and even a three-day trip to the South of the Italian Boot, near the island of Sicily, where, using my spear gun, capture a large octopus and a 42 inch long MORAY EEL...both of which the hotel kitchen cooks up for us...DELICIOUS !!

Photo of undulating moray on top of a coral colony

PHOTOS OF MONDRAGONE (in 1958, there were NO beach facilities...only small fishermen huts)

Guido shares with me that his Uncle, living in the small fishing village of MONDRAGONE on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea, has invited us to visit him...seems there is an ancient underwater city, SINUESSA,  a mile or so off-shore from Mondragone, where local fishermen have for centuries caught fish.
Also seems that only the locals know of the location of this ancient city.

We agree to drive over a weekend to Mondragone, talk to the locals, and try to snorkel out to the ruins to take a look.  I fashion an inner tube / fish net "float" attached to a 125 foot anchor line with a lead weight (I designed a mold and poured my own lead weight, which were not available on the local market).

Arriving at Mondragone, the local fishermen chat with Guido and I all morning...producing a map they have drawn from "soundings" made over many years fishing the ruins, which lie 100 - 150 feet deep, one mile off shore (toward the Sahara Desert in nearby Africa), and 3 miles north to south paralleling the beach.  I trace a copy of their map (which I still have - but have mis-laid during my recent moves). 

Guido and I decide to snorkel on out, towing my fish-net float to carry anything we might find. 

We swim out about one mile...the bottom clearly visible through the crystal clear water.  Suddenly, there lies below us great mounds of  hand shaped stones stretching into the depths...obviously remains of a large ruins, complete with parallel open spaces between the piles of stones - STREETS?

I drop my anchor line ... Guido and I hyperventilate, bend at the waist, and plunge for the bottom.  We easily reach the nearest stones...excited to be the first persons to visit SINUESSA since it sank beneath the waves sometime in antiquity.

Guido and I do not retrieve anything during our first visit.  We do, however, arrange a formal dive under the auspices of AFSE SUBAQUA CLUB.  About 16 Scuba Divers accompany Guido and I back to SINUESSA, where we rent 3 local fishing boats, and under my leadership, spend two days making repeated dives into SINUESSA.

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That which follows from wikipedia is a somewhat detailed account of the Second Punic War, during which Hannibal essentially conquered the Italian Peninsula.  According to our fishermen friends of Mondragone, it was near SINUESSA that Hannibal centered most of the 15 years he led his army.

Interesting to me is that I find little or no reference to SINUESSA, except for the popularity of the Baths.  There is NO mention of the ancient large underwater city Guido and I visited in 1958.

Our Mondragone fishermen friends suggested that SINUESSA, at around 900AD, sank beneath the sea during a volcanic event further inland.

It is my understanding that at some date after 1958, National Geographic conducted an archaeological event at SINUESSA.  I have not yet delved into that information.

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