By Joan Sánchez Ros
Athens, Jul 1 (EFE).- Kostas Zoktaridis is a Greek shipwreck hunter who has dedicated his life to scouring the sea floor for the remains of those ill-fated vessels that never made it back to port.
The waters off Greece are full of sunken treasure.
There are an estimated 1,500 shipwrecks in its seas and 53-year-old Athenian Zoktaridis has visited at least 500, from Ancient merchant ships to modern vessels such as the MS Sea Diamond, which sank off Santorini in 2007.
Zoktaridis’ interest in shipwrecks all began at the age of 18 when he bought a book at the Piraeus Maritime Museum.
He has since devoured literature on the topic and says that he has more than 7,000 documents relating to shipwrecks in Greece.
But when it comes to putting shipwreck hunting into practice, he must turn to first hand information from seafarers.
This is how he discovered the wreck of the Spanish ship San Isidro Labrador, which was sunk off the island of Kythnos by a Greek submarine nearly 80 years ago.
Another important source of knowledge comes from fishers, who know the location of many shipwrecks but need some reassurance before they hand over the information as to not give away good fishing grounds.
“I do not fish ever, for this reason fishermen in Greece trust me and provide me information about the shipwrecks, because for fishermen, the shipwrecks are very important, it is the house of fish,” he tells Efe.
Zoktaridis’ company Planet Blue is based out of the port town of Laurium (Lavrio), and has at its disposal remotely operated vehicles that can dive up to a kilometer under the waves.
Each month, his company receives about 4 or 5 assignments to locate objects that have been lost at the bottom of the sea, including propellers, anchors or entire shipwrecks.
Less frequently he also participates in documentaries or investigations by collecting images or samples of the seabed.
And yet it is during his weekends and holidays when Zoktaridis and his 20-year-old daughter and business partner have time to pursue their shared personal passion of hunting for new discoveries.
He said his favorite type of shipwrecks are submarines, of which he has found four.
In 1997, he discovered the wreck of HMS Perseus, a British submarine that struck an Italian mine in World War II.
All of the vessel’s occupants perished apart from John Capes who, in an escape worthy of its own movie, took a swig of rum, opened the hatch and made the 52-meter (170-foot) ascent to the water’s surface, before swimming to shore on the island of Kefalonia.
For Zoktaridis, exploring shipwrecks is like “traveling to the past.”EFE