Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Ruins of a roaring ancient wine trade...90 feet below!
Are you a tuna fish? If so, you're probably not reading this right now (but Kanye West is running for President so you never know), but you may very well be darting about the crystal clear waters of the tiny Greek island of Alonissos. And it is a tuna fish that I must thank for first alerting me to the existence of this splendid isle. I also ate the fish.
Anyway it was in a gourmet shop in Ermoupoli on the island of Syros that I discovered delicious Alonissos tuna, attractively packaged in a clear glass jar. I learned that Alonissos is a tiny island in the Sporades archipelago, which also counts more renowned islands like Skopelos and Skiathos in its aquatic club. But unlike those bigger ones, Alonissos is a pristine place untouched by tourism and a refuge for monachus monachus, the fancy fancy name for the endangered and unreasonably cute Mediterranean monk seal. Actually the whole island is a national marine park.
But the pure waters of Alonissos harbor more than happy seals and juicy, plastic-free tuna fish — there's sunken treasure, too. You see, in the big B.C.—circa 425—an Athenian merchant vessel fell afoul of Poseidon's graces and sank off the rocky shore of Peristera, an islet next to Alonissos (Greece has more islands than even someone who says they actually like math could count). That ship was packed to the gills with amphorae used to carry wine, probably coming from Skopelos. The wine is sadly long gone but the evocative amphorae, literally hundreds of them, still "litter" the sea floor.
So if you've had it with the psychological burden that the new social distancing measures at museums around the world represents and you don't mind getting wet in the interest of Culture then lucky you because as of August 3 this portion of the Alonissos seabed will officially open as Greece's first underwater museum, and certainly the only one in the world with this unique history.
Ninety feet below the azure surface, you probably don't have to worry about a busload of other homo sapiens breathing down your neck. Plus at these depths, wearing a mask is always in style—just add fins. Yes, this is your chance to be at one with nature, the Golden Age of Greece and tuna fish, all at the same time!
And because we jump at any chance to print, speak or otherwise use the word Ephorate, we add that this underwater flight of fancy is a project involving Greece's Ephorate of Marine Antiquities (ephors were ancient Spartan leaders), the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Region of Thessaly and the Municipality of Alonissos. Also something called BLUEMED.
The museum will remain "open" until October 2 both for free divers and other enthusiasts who can be accompanied by professional divers.
Just please, don't mess with the monk seals if you sea any. They were there first...
...and they're way cuter than you.