Secca De Capistello, Italy

Period - 3rd century BC
Depth - 59 - 80 m (195 - 264 ft)
Excavation - 1976 - 77
Mixed gas dives - 5.5 hours on site
Saturation dives - 3 teams
157 hours on sites 

"I had second thoughts as I stood in my vertical steel coffin and heard the hatch bolted shut. The re-breathing mask strapped over my face only added to my claustrophobia in the cramped Robertina diving bell. Two days earlier I had helped lower the bell to 250 m (825 ft) and seen it come up dry inside. This time I would descend only 65 m (215 ft), where stresses would be considerably reduced. But what would happen if a porthole struck a rock on the slopes below?"

"Now, on a hot August day in 1976, I was descending into the cool, blue sea to monitor SSOS divers excavating a 3rd-centur BC Hellenistic ship that had wrecked at Secca di Capistello, a reef off Lipari in the Aeolian Sea north of Sicily." 

"In 1977, I returned to La Secca di Capistello with a team being trained for saturation diving. During the previous year, trainees' bottom time was limited to 20 minutes by the need to decompress at the end of each dive, in order to release gradually the nitrogen in their blood that could otherwise form fatal bubbles. 

"Our la Secca di Capistello excavation was at its time the deepest ever conducted under archaeological controls, and the first ue of saturation diving for archaeology. INA had opened a new door to underwater excavations."

- Donald A. Frey


Excerpts and Photo Captions
Frey, Donald A. "Saturation Diving for Archaeology: La Secca di Capistello, Italy" in "Beneath the Seven Seas," edited by George F. Bass, pp. 80-81. New York and London, 2005.





the Robertina diving bell

Teams of four Italian divers lived for a week at a time inside a pressurized chamber on the training ship Corsair, and were lowered in this pressurized PTC (personnel transfer capsule) to the wreck, where they could work outside for hours without daily decompression. - D. Frey