Anewly constructed scientific research and investigation ship called the UPL, capable of taking three-dimensional images at a depth of 500 meters (1,640 feet), recently embarked on its maiden voyage from Türkiye southern Antalya province.
The ship, built by the Mediterranean Archaeology Association in a shipyard of Konyaaltı’s Sarısu district, is considered one of the largest archaeological vessels in the world.
It cost 2.5 million euros ($2.68 million) and is designed for underwater excavations and research in Türkiye, particularly along the coasts of Mersin and Antalya.
During a ceremony held at Setur Marina, the 38-meter-long ship was officially launched.
Dr. Hakan Öniz, the head of the Department of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage at Akdeniz University, explained that the ship’s construction aimed to fulfill the need for a modern and high-tech vessel capable of conducting underwater archaeological research and excavations.
“We needed a better, modern and high-tech ship that could carry out the archaeological underwater research and excavations on the coasts of Mersin and Antalya,” he said.
Noting that they have anticipated the moment for years, as such a ship was the dream of underwater archaeologists, Öniz highlighted the size and technological aspect, saying: “Because we can truly say that it is one of the largest in the world in terms of size and probably the best archaeological ship in the world in terms of technology.”
Öniz emphasized that the ship will be used not only by Akdeniz University but will also be available to all universities in Türkiye that are active in underwater archaeology and for graduate and doctoral students coming through UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).
He noted that the ship is equipped with a system capable of capturing 3D images from significant depths, enabling the documentation of previously unrecorded seabed artifacts.
Researchers will be able to analyze the images obtained from bottom sonars and send robots equipped on the ship to explore further if they hold archaeological significance.
“There will be four robots on our ship. In slightly deeper waters, we will now be able to do our work with divers and robots. We are among the few countries in the world that can do this,” he said.
The ship’s hybrid design utilizes solar panels for electricity generation, except for the machinery, and includes a pressure room for five individuals.
Öniz also mentioned the importance of the 3,600-year-old Kumluca Middle Bronze Age shipwreck, which they discovered in 2018, among the underwater excavations, adding that they will also uncover the 50-meter-deep wreckage thanks to the new research ship.
Deputy Governor Suat Seyitoğlu said that the ship, which will contribute to underwater archaeology research in Antalya, is important in unveiling the Mediterranean’s underground resources.
UPL Tarım Türkiye Manager Murat Yahyaoğlu stated they are honored to support an important project and are committed to continued contribution.