A Hallin subsea ROV team has discovered and retrieved 2,000-year-old artifacts while searching for radioactive waste off the coast of Italy. Hallin were working for Italian contractor Geolab onboard the Mare Oceano, with the ultimate client the Italian Government, as it searched for vessels believed to have been scuttled by the Mafia.
With the security of an Italian coastguard patrol in close attendance and using special radioactive sensors, Hallin's team searched an area off of Capo Palinuro, near Policastro, Italy in 500 meters plus water depths.
Instead of finding modern-day contaminated wrecks, they came across the remains of a Roman galley, which sank thousands of years ago.
Hallin's ROV supervisor, Dougie Combe, said he and his crew were looking at the seabed more than 500m down when they stumbled across the pots lying in the mud.
Taking amazing care and showing incredible skill, the crew from the Aberdeen based West division of Hallin managed to recover five of the rare pots intact.
The team constructed special baskets to protect the pots and fitted the baskets to the ROV. They then painstakingly transferred the 2,000-year-old pottery into the baskets and brought them to the surface.
They were then handed over to an archaeology museum in the historic Greco-Roman city of Paestum, in northern Italy.
Mr. Combe said the vessels crew was stunned when they spotted the pots in the mud.
After the first sighting the crew worked non-stop around the clock for two days to bring them to the surface without damaging them.
The ROV operators cleared the silt and debris off of the pots, using the machine's mechanical arm and water jets.
Mr. Combe said: "It was a big surprise when we came across the pots. They were scattered across the seabed 500 metres down and were clearly from an ancient wreck. The operation we were on had nothing to do with them - we were looking for slightly more modern wrecks from the last 20 years or so. We managed to get five up altogether, but there must have been hundreds of them there."
Mr. Combe, from Speyside, near Aberdeen, said: "They would have probably been loaded on some kind of merchant ship which sank all those years ago. We manufactured a basket for the ROV to spread the weight of the pots, got hold of them with a hook and brought them up very carefully. It's certainly the oldest thing we've come across on the seabed. We were in Norway last year and found some relics from World War Two, but these pots are several thousand years old."
The pots, thought to have been used to hold precious oils as they were transported by ship, are believed to be ancient Greek or Roman and are thought to date back at least 2,000 years.
They are now being studied by the "Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici delle Province di Salerno e Avellino" (the Salerno, Avellino and Caserta Monuments and Archeological Sites Office).