Extremely excited to have my travel article published in the current Explorerissue of F*Shift Magazine about my adventure year exploring South America and the Balkans! Check out my story for F*Shift Magazine in the digital edition (pp.40-41), order in print, or view on the website! Thanks and I hope you enjoy the snippets!
Short excerpt from the article:
I breathed in the earthy humid air as I took another step deeper into the dense tangled jungle. As I trekked through knee-high swamps any sudden sound would conjure mirages of Cayman crocodiles known to roam these waters. Ancient watchful trees whispered stories across the mist threaded forest. An orchestra of squawking parrots and howling monkeys followed me as I explored this sensory maze. I will never forget the Amazon.
A backpack, scuba kit, and boarding pass – these have been my three survival essentials of this spontaneous nomadic year. The moment I passed my Ph.D., I knew I was seeking a complete shift in lifestyle. As an underwater archaeologist with a curious spirited mind, I had a yearning for a stimulating adventure away from academia. My childhood dream had been to explore South America, submerging myself in its captivating nature and culture. Though I love the incessant, vibrant creativity and rhythms that flow through London, I needed to escape life’s rush. Coincidentally, a friend told me about a possibility to work in Chile. That was all I needed to hear – so I seized the chance, jumped on a plane and set off! I was suddenly teleported to the charismatic, colourful port-town of Valparaiso, where this year’s journey began.
A place where the mountains kiss the seas. Soaring backdrops contour the distinct steep rocky shores of the Balkans. I have been lucky to explore the coastlines of Croatia, Montenegro, and more recently, their less visited neighbour, Albania. It is still relatively unknown and untouched… a beautiful country, rich in history. I was part of a team of international scientists on the “Albania 2016 Marine Science Expedition”, in search of ancient shipwrecks and artefacts along different sites in Albania, known in ancient times as Epirus.
CORFU STRAIT & ALBANIA
Just as ancient sailors did over 2000 years ago, we embarked on our expedition from the Greek island of Corfu, sailing across to Sarandë, on the Albanian Riviera, then northward through and beyond the Corfu Strait to Vlorë Bay. We sought temporary shelter along the way at Porto Palermo, where the Ali Pasha Castle lies. Before reaching it, we had to watch out for the inconspicuous reef that was hazardous to sailors throughout antiquity, known as the Devil’s Tongue. Below the surface rests the Joni Wreck, a large 4th century AD Roman shipwreck. As we navigated along this mountainous coast, we faced changing winds and choppy waters, so we continually adapted to nature’s whim. Along the largely harbourless Karaburun Peninsula, we caught sight of the distinct limestone-ringed rocky coastline known as the White Roads in antiquity. We anchored en-route, strapped on our dive gear and explored the seabed of Gramma Bay, a small natural haven where Roman forces landed, and Greek and Latin inscriptions of sailors are engraved on the cliff walls of the way, a sort of sailors’ ‘rock diary’.
We then set sail around the tip of the peninsula where it curves into Vlorë Bay, past the natural colour-changing border where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas merge. Along this stretch lies the Cave of the Illyrians, believed to have been a pirate hideout in the past. We explored threatened areas, finding evidence for ancient sea-level change and maritime trade. Our most exciting discoveries were large submerged remains at the fortified Roman port of Triport, proving to be far larger than previously believed, extending an additional 8 acres at least. It offered anchorage for ships on the sea and Narta Lagoon, linking ancient cities via major Roman roads and trade routes. On the return journey, we took the land route instead, driving south along mountainous winding roads through abundant national parks. We reached Lake Butrint, an inland lagoon linked to the Roman fortified colony and port Butrint, a key archaeological UNESCO World Heritage site in southern Albania. We carried out underwater cultural assessments of nearby areas, while enjoying evenings at our remote camp surrounding a fireplace in the company of scorpions and mosquitos, overlooking Corfu under a starry sky to the sound of crashing waves.
[excerpt from my ‘Snippets of a Nomadic Year: From South America to the Balkans‘ article published in F*Shift Magazine‘s Explorer issue, Oct 2016, pp. 40-41]
Project directed by Peter B. Campbell, M.A (University of Southampton), Neritan Ceka (Albanian Institute of Archaeology), and Albanian National Coastal Agency.
“Expedition finds remains of fortified Roman port are much larger than previously thought”. Read more about our recent marine science expedition in Albania, featured on Physics News (Phys.org) and the see following blog post.
Exploring the Karaburun Peninsula. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128)
Porto Palermo. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128)
Albanian mountainous coastline. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128)
Sailing along the Albanian coast. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128)
The Ionian-Adriatic natural border. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128)
Sailing ancient Epirus. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128)
Cave of the Illyrians – a pirate hideout. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128)
Steven Lopez surveying Vlore Bay. Photography: Niki Karagouni.
Underwater survey of Gramma Bay with Peter Campbell, project director. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128)
Finding new evidence of large submerged port remains of Triport. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128)
Exploring Albania’s maritime heritage. Photography: Steven Lopez (instagram: @eslopez128).