No sites stir the Australian imagination more than the Gallipoli landings on the Turkish Dardanelles peninsula. The events transformed these once isolated places into bloody memorials to valour and sacrifice and are etched into modern history. To Australians, the date of 25th April remains a symbol of nation building and heroism. 96 years on, the physical landscape has changed little. Identified as a significant place by both Turkish and foreign governments, the original beachheads at ANZAC Cove, Suvla Bay and Cape Helles have been subject to only minor transformation.
A swelling interest in battlefield tourism has meant that these fragile places have gained a growing focus.
Warfare has played a significant role in the history of the Dardanelles since the times of ancient Greece and Persia, and later Alexander the Great and his conquest of the East. It was across these same waters that the Allied troops landed under the watchful gaze of the Turkish defenders in 1915. The peninsula's Mediterranean coast hides the remnants of war, the cultural remains of invading armies.
The same waters hold the secrets of World War One and the invading Allied amphibious assault on Turkish soil of 1915.
Project Beneath Gallipoli, a joint Australia-Turkish expedition, is the first professional archaeological examination of the underwater cultural landscape offshore from ANZAC Cove. The extent of cultural remains is largely unknown apart from the discovery of a number of shipwrecks from the campaign – particularly British and French battleships sunk around the coast.
Our Gallipoli team undertook the archaeological expedition in May-June this year. The preliminary results within a short two-week period (really one week in the field!) were substantial. Key findings included: the discovery of at least three new shipwrecks in the ANZAC Sector, the detection of other underwater sites such as dumping grounds, cables and moorings, the remnants of historic piers and smaller archaeological relics, the re-identification of a known shipwreck in Suvla Bay as HMS Louis wrecked in the campaign, and the discovery of bridge building pontoons used by the Royal Australian Navy Bridging Train (RANBT), as an example.
It is critical that the full extent of this unique underwater cultural landscape receives proper recording in light of the battle’s 100th anniversary approaching in 2015.
While the famous land defences - the trenches, posts and gullies are commonly known, it was the beachheads that provided the opportunity for access, supplies and finally evacuation, after eight months of horror. Project Beneath Gallipoli aims to comprehensively document the surviving underwater cultural heritage from the 1915 conflict via remote sonar surveys and diver-based detailed archaeological recordings. By developing a sophisticated holistic mosaic of the entirety of the battlefield, we hope to provide, present and interpret all linked cultural heritage remains to the historic record. The surveys will be extended from the shoreline to 70 metres of water and be extended to Cape Helles in the south, with the ANZAC and Suvla sector work continued as an immediate focus in 2011.
The principle study of the Gallipoli Campaign has been the examination of historic records related to the major phases of the operations, the significant battles, and the human toll of the tragedy. Apart from Charles Bean and the Historic Gallipoli Mission's documentation of the battlefield in 1919, there has been a limited focus on the physical mapping and interrogation of the battlefield in modern times. In terms of the underwater component of that battlefield, there have been no scientific studies. This has been a significant omission as the Gallipoli Campaign began as a naval offensive, with the landings all undertaken from the sea, the troops provisioned from it, and the final evacuations all comprising naval operations.
However, the legacy of the conflict can be found underwater equally as it can on the peninsula. We have confirmed that the archaeological footprint of the battle surviving underwater is in many ways better preserved and more graphic than the remains observable ashore. The dramatic discovery and inspection of shipwrecked barges used to convey the wounded off the beach can evoke the magnitude of the campaign, now lying silently and still in their underwater 1915 battle context. The documentation of powerfully evocative relics like lead balls from Turkish shrapnel shells brings the horror of the campaign alive to an engaged international public audience.
The Project Beneath Gallipoli team is a joint Australian-Turkish endeavour, has the strong support of the Turkish and Australian Governments, and is a model of international cooperation and friendship.
Transformed into complex facilities with jetties and partial harbour works, the opportunity exists to document an untold aspect of the Gallipoli landings at the beach landing sites. The extent of cultural remains is largely unknown in many of the sectors. Our team's 2010 deployment has significantly changed expert understanding of the scope and scale of surviving archaeological relics. We have detected and inspected for example, three new shipwrecks in the ANZAC sector alone - never seen before, one at least used to carry wounded Australian and New Zealand troops from the beaches. We documented key jetties and piers, Turkish shrapnel pellets and associated smaller relics. The project has proven beyond any measure the need to continue the vital archaeological work in documenting the wider underwater footprint of the Gallipoli Campaign. A range of other sites still await discovery, documentation and interpretation. Our results will be provided to the Australian and Turkish Governments to aid the ongoing management of the sites.
Project Beneath Gallipoli submits the project for consideration by the National Commission on the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary as an endorsed ongoing project in the lead up to the 2015 centenary. The project team have identified a staged delivery of its fieldwork program over the next five years.
Mr Tim Smith is Deputy Director of the Heritage Branch, NSW Department of Planning (Sydney, Australia), and NSW State Government Maritime Archaeologist. He is also the Director – Maritime Archaeology of the AE2 Commemorative Foundation Ltd. (AE2CF) separate Silent Anzac project. This team continues to conduct the archaeological survey and assessment of the Australian submarine AE2 wrecked in the Turkish Sea of Marmara, supported by the Australian and Turkish Governments. The AE2 team last visited Turkey in April 2008 heading a technical management workshop at Istanbul, following the successful 2-week expedition to the submarine wreck in September 2007. Tim is also the archaeological representative on the Project team seeking to search and document the AE1 submarine wreck lost near Rabaul in 1914. Tim is a recognised expert in the mapping and management of underwater cultural heritage sites with over 22 years experience in Australian and international archaeological projects, working extensively in Jordan, Greece, Turkey and Italy. He is currently Project Manager of the WW2 Japanese midget submarine wreck M24 (1942) located near Sydney, and NSW State Councillor and past Vice President and Secretary of the Australasian Institute for Maritime Archaeology Inc. (AIMA).