That’s what has happened to a dive-team on a small Greek archipelago called Fourni, located between the islands of Samos and Ikaria in the eastern Aegean Sea.

The 2016 Fourni Underwater Survey, which took place between 8 June and 2 July, was a collaboration between Greece’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, which provided eight scuba-divers led by Dr George Koutsouflakis, and US organisation RPM Nautical Foundation, with a team led by archaeologist Peter Campbell.

The Ephorate has just released details of discoveries made on a series of dives to depths of as much as 65m. The 23 shipwrecks range from Antiquity to the early 19th century, but many are from a flourishing period of trade between the 3rd and 7th centuries AD. Fourni has now been declared the richest wreck location in Greece and one of the richest in the Mediterranean.

Besides the wrecks, many with their cargoes of amphorae, hundreds of individual finds were recorded, mainly pottery and anchors - two ancient examples proving to be the largest of their kind yet found in the Aegean.

Fourni is one of the few areas of that sea to experience both northern and southern currents, making it a key maritime crossroads where ancient sailing routes would have converged. Though barely mentioned in surviving records, its leeward coasts would have provided a haven for ships in bad weather.

The 45 wrecks found so far represent a quarter of all the known ancient wrecks in Greek waters. Some of the 22 previous finds were also re-examined during the recent survey.

“Crucial to the success of the investigation has been the awareness of the local population and the extensive information about the existence of antiquities on the seabed provided by the fishing community and the divers of Fourni and the sponge-divers from Kalymnos, which enabled a fast-track approach,” said the Ephorate.

The area investigated so far covers less than 15% of the Fourni archipelago’s coastline, so far more shipwrecks are expected to be found on future surveys.

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