MAYA-GAIA INTRODUCTION and SITE MAP       Update 07 12 08

Ed Fisher Autobiography Scuba Diving Adventures

Chronology of Projects Between 1953 and 1967
Proposed Topics: Laguna Beach, skin diving Miami, marine tropical fish collecting, dive blood and guts, 24-hour saturation dive, Florida cave diving, night diving, deep water technical diving, U. Miami Marine Laboratory, Keith Reef Skerki Banks, Xlendi Bay Gozo

24-Hour Saturation Undersea Dive, French Reef 1954

Keith Reef, Skerki Banks 1966

Xlendi Bay, Gozo, Malta 1967

Malta Map Xlendi Bay Satellite Transportation: Rode bus from my hotel in Valletta to the hydrofoil ferry running from Cirkewwa in Malta over to Mgarr in Gozo. Took taxi over to Xlendi.

At the time I was an underwater photographer at the University of Miami Marine Laboratory (Now the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science) working under a US Navy research contract. I had come to Malta on assignment to make underwater films of some British destroyers to document the effects of classified hull modifications while the ships were underway. When the project ended, I had a few days to spend as a tourist and met with some of the British EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) divers who for years had been clearing up World War II unexploded ordinance in the surrounding waters to see if they could recommend an underwater antiquities site I could photograph. They had not found any shipwrecks but showed me their confidential charts where they had made finds- marble cannon balls, Roman and medieval anchor stocks on the N. Coast, a huge bronze cannon of The Order and vestiges of lost cargo in shallow, silted inlets including about a dozen amphora found singly off Gallis Rock and Quanava? Point. The most promising seemed to be a few amphora found intact around the mouth of Xlendi Bay in Gozo. These were discovered scattered on the steep cliff facing the sea some six years previously at depths between 100 and 150 feet. I was assured that only fragments remained at the site and since the area was thoroughly picked over and the unexplored area was at such a depth that there was no point in my searching there.

I figured that after six years the EOD guys were sincere but that they had a scuba air depth limit of 150 feet and since I had already made technical dives on air to 250 feet in Florida, thought that I might discover additional stuff. Since none of them felt the trip worthwhile I decided to go alone and packed my double tanks and gear on a bus ride to the hydrofoil ferry over to Gozo and rented a rowboat in Xlendi. I rowed the short distance out in the bay to where the amphora had been recovered and anchored in about 30 feet on the top of the submarine butte that jutted across the mouth of the harbor and made my way down the sea face of the cliff that dropped steeply into unknown depths. At about 100 feet I started to see amphora fragments lightly scattered amongst the rocks and at 150 feet started to feel the effects of nitrogen narcosis. Below, I saw what at the time I imagined was a pile of amphora that had been flattened and then another pile some 30 feet distant at the same depth. Descending down to that level at 180 feet I could see below the flat sand bottom where the rock cliff met the seafloor where a huge flat rock had fallen to lie just outside the base. There at a depth of 200 feet were intact amphora visible half-buried in the sand. Working fast I grabbed the first one I encountered and because it was almost completely filled with sand, struggled to empty it so I could start my ascent. I don't recall how I managed to bring the amphora up to my decompression station on the anchor line of the rowboat (I may have had an inflation vest) but somehow I was able to get all my gear with the amphora sitting in my lap on the bus back to my hotel in Valletta that evening.

In the next three days of diving the site I discovered the huge flat rock was resting on an even larger rock which formed a cave under which were intact amphora that had been sheltered from debris falling from the cliff face. By that time I had realized that the piles of flattened amphora were likely still-assembled roof tiles from the after cabin of a Roman galley. I retrieved my fourth amphora lying just outside the big rock at a depth of 210 feet. As I rowed back to the dock I noticed some guys running back on the path that ran along the promontory which had an observation tower at the sea end and pretty well knew I was about to be confronted by the Maltese authorities. As I tied up my rowboat a heavily mustached guy escorted by a couple of bodyguards assembled at dockside and bellowed out "Donta move!, Donta leava da boot!" and knew I was in trouble with the law.

Naturally I had no choice but to cooperate with the authorities and was escorted back to my hotel room in Valletta where I was provided a receipt for the rest of the amphora I had recovered. Over the next couple of months I tried to contact the director of the Malta antiquities museum to see if he would be interested in my arranging for a a US University to sponsor a scientific survey of the Xlendi site under his direction fiananced by a grant using counterpart funds then available, but he never replied to any of my correspondence. Back in 2003 I had some Email correspondence with Ayse Derrim Atauz, a research associate at the Institue of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University, TX about their website. It presents a brief account of an amphora field in 110 meters, 3-miles out of Xlendi harbour, Gozo. At the time Atauz had the impression that the few dozen amphora recovered by Maltese divers and fishermen over the years in Xlendi Bay were all part of the scatter from the wrecks that deposited the concentrations of thousands of amphora out in deep water. He also mentioned a John Wood who dived to some of the shallower sites at the mouth of Xlendi Bay in the early 1970's. However my sighting of the two stacks of roof tiles at the site in Xlendi Bay seemed evidence that argued against that theory. Ed Fisher, Stuart, FL 2008

Further references to Xlendi Roman Wreck:

The Malta Historical Society Melita Historica. [Published by the Malta Historical Society]. 1965 [p.145] The Malta Underwater Archaeological Research Group: (Excerpts) For the 3rd time work is going to be continued on the Xlendi Bay Wrecks, Marsalforn, and other parts of Gozo...But the greatest achievement of the branch so far was a passage from the Gozitan Historian De Soldanis which was the means of finding the Xlendi Bay Roman Wrecks.

HeritageMalta 29 May 2005 ‘The Xlendi Bay Wrecks: A Reappraisal’ – Public lecture by Elaine Azzopardi, as part of the half-day seminar ‘Underwater Archaeology in Malta’ organised by ‘The Friends of the Malta Maritime Museum’, at the ‘St Angelo Hall’, Malta Maritime Museum, Vittoriosa (9.30 hrs). Malta Sub Aqua Diving Club Forum - see postings under Wreck Diving Malta - Mar 2005 - excerpts:
Most of the intact pieces that were once at the base of Xlendi reef have been retrieved & most are in the Archaeology Museum in Rabat Gozo.
NO ONE CAN DIVE A ROMAN WRECK it is also on the instructors c-card and in the local regulations. The following are a few areas that divers are not allowed: Xlendi
Mate if you need the list let me know. MTA started issuing Fine if you are caught diving in these areas at least this is what I heard so far.

The Maritime History and Archaeology of Malta Trade, Piracy, and Naval Warfare in the Central Mediterranean: - A Dissertation by AYÞE DEVRÝM ATAUZ, Texas A&M University May 2004 p375 (Appendix A:) The Amphora Scatter Off the Entrance to Xlendi Bay, Gozo: The entrance to the Xlendi Bay is obstructed by two shallow reefs and a very uneven coastal wind pattern that makes both anchorage and sailing difficult in this area. For this reason, ships abandoned anchors and jettisoned cargo to avoid wrecking. It seems that the amphoras and anchors around the reefs were all recovered by amateur divers in the 1960s. Some of these amphoras were brought to the archaeological museum in Gozo by divers from the British Navy who recovered this material from 20 meters of depth at the mouth of the Xlendi Bay. Interviews with the diving schools in Gozo suggest that further material was collected by divers in the last decades to clear all the remains in the areas up to a depth of 70 meters.

Scuba Diving as Mediterranean Culture Preservation and Presentation of Gozo’s Maritime Heritage by Sara Rich Department of Art History University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee September 2006. Not all shipwrecks are available to divers, despite their tantalizing proximity to Gozo’s coast. Three Roman shipwrecks were found in Xlendi Bay, 50 m deep. This is outside the safe diving range for recreational diving. The portions of the wrecks that were accessible to recreational diving in the bay were excavated by archaeologists to deter pilfering.

References about St.Paul's Shipwreck

Does The Lost Shipwreck of Paul Hold Water? by Gordon Franz MA: An in-depth, archaeological look at all the Maltese artifacts and Biblical accounts that are inconsistent with Robert Cornuke's claims about the site of the wreck in his book The Lost Shipwreck of Paul (2003)

Have the Anchors from the Apostle Paul's Shipwreck Been Discovered on Malta? By Gordon Franz with a critical response by James Mulholland a resident of Malta, a member of the Pauline Association and one who has researched the shipwreck of Paul for the last fifteen years. As a life-long member of the Maltese community and an investigative researcher at numerous locations, I've driven, hiked, boated, at nearly every location on this 17 by 9 1/2 mile island.


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