FOUR OF US were planning to dive. We split into two pairs, and at the start one of the other pair had a buoyancy problem.
As we began to descend along the wall, I noted how few fish there seemed to be. Those first few minutes of the dive were nothing out of the ordinary.
At the bottom of the wall, at around 25m, the seabed flattened out into sand.
I soon spotted the anchor. Partly covered and camouflaged by vegetation, it stood alone half-buried in sand. I wondered how it had ended up in this place.
Vedran and Igor start to lift the first of the amphoras found at Pag Island, under the supervision of a team of Croatian underwater archaeologists.
Nearby, a beautiful cove offers exceptional protection from the wind, and surely even Roman sailors would have been familiar with it. What a story that anchor would be able to tell, but it’s one that will always remain untold, I thought to myself. Yet again, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Vedran and I decided to continue a bit deeper, further away from the anchor and the wall. The other two divers stayed back and began slowly to ascend.
A few minutes later, I noticed in the distance a strange dark shadow, probably a mass of rocks rising from the sand. It had clearly caught Vedran’s attention too, and we gradually got closer and closer, Vedran ahead of me.
Suddenly I noticed him making some rather unusual movements. It would be hard to say if I had really seen a change, or if it was just a feeling. What would normally be regular calm motions had become quicker and livelier.
Vedran was still swimming toward the dark rocks, with me in tow wondering what was going on. Something must have caught his eye. Some huge fish?
As his movements became ever-jerkier, Vedran turned to me and made a gesture that clearly asked whether I’d seen what he had seen. He pointed to the dark mass.
Only then did I realise that what I had taken to be rocks were an unusual, almost perfectly rounded shape. It hit me that what I was looking at probably wasn’t what it had seemed to be.
Our excitement grew as we swam closer. The scene that opened up before us was unbelievable. Amphoras, a huge pile of them, all neatly arranged.
Swimming over them, we couldn’t have been more thrilled. My heart was racing and my breathing speeding up.
If I hadn’t known Vedran, I would have been nervous about the way he was moving around. The elation was bursting out of him; he had gone from merely floating to performing a dance of delight.
He seemed to be wondering whether he was having hallucinations and if his air-fill could be at fault.
A quick check was enough to determine that the amphoras were undamaged. They had been waiting here undisturbed for centuries, perhaps even millennia, and they had avoided all the dangers inherent in the sea, especially today’s methods of intensive fishing.
The first of the vessels is brought to the surface.
Were they just waiting for Vedran and me to touch a piece of history? We were clearly the first divers to find them.
What a strange feeling! A regular day of diving had been transformed into something special.
I was aware that we were running out of air and that most of our dive was already behind us, but we still had time to do some quick exploring.
The pile of amphoras rose out of the sand to a height of 3-4m. Any wreck timbers had long since disappeared, but the vessels were clearly arranged in the shape of a ship, around 25m long and 6m wide.
They were stuck together in a single mass with coral and sediment, and formed labyrinths that proved to be hiding places for red scorpionfish, conger eels and lobsters.