x0x HUNTING FOR IMAGES UNDERWATER
- x0x HUNTING FOR IMAGES UNDERWATER
By Saner Gulsoken
On a sunny Aegean morning the sapphire sea was shimmering, and a
gentle offshore breeze carried the scent of distant pine trees. The
sandy beach stretched out lazily, unaware of the bustle that would
begin shortly. As I sipped my tea I let this beautiful scene soak into
me. We were at Karaburun, at the extremity of the peninsula west of
Izmir. As the sun rose higher people wandered by ones and twos down to
the beach, and soon the activity there was the centre of my attention.
The Underwater Image Hunting Competition (SAGAY) 2000 was about to
begin. From above the sea appeared crystal clear, but would the
invisible depths be so? That was for the contestants who would soon
begin diving with their cameras to discover.
The growth of diving as a sport and holiday recreation is the best
indicator of just how little Turkey's seas have been affected by
pollution despite population increase and industrialisation. Over
recent years the number of visitors coming to Turkey for the sole
purpose of diving and exploring the underwater world have been
However, preventing damage to the natural environment is a challenging
task. Illegal and indiscriminate hunting and fishing are causing the
rapid depletion of many species, yet protection of the environment is
as important for human survival as for wildlife. National parks are
one way of doing this. The world's first national park was established
in the United States in the late 19th century, and the concept was
adopted by Turkey as it was by other countries. After a series of laws
passed to preserve wildlife, legislation was put into place for the
establishment of national parks in 1956.
The seas surrounding Turkey are characterised not only by scenic
beauty, but by the submerged buildings and artefacts of ancient
civilisations, and both abundant and diverse species of wildlife.
These factors have led to the idea of establishing marine as well as
land national parks, and the Gokceada-TUDAV Marine Park designed and
established by the Turkish Marine Research Foundation (TUDAV) in 1999
is a welcome development.
The park at Gokceada, the largest Turkish island in the Aegean, aims
not only to protect the sea in the area from pollution and
exploitation, but also to educate the general public. With this object
dives are organised to show the beauty and fascination of marine life.
Another organisation working in this field is the Middle East
Technical University Underwater Association, which was established in
1985 by a group of lecturers and students. The association's aims are
to research, conserve and publicise the natural and cultural features
of Turkey's coasts and coastal waters. Their activities include basic
and advanced diving, exploration and research, locating and recovering
wrecks, and first aid courses. The association has also established a
number of groups specialising in particular aspects of its work, such
as Mediterranean Seal Research, Wreck Exploration, Cave Research,
Photography and Videography, and Ecology. Among the projects
undertaken by the association are protection of the loggerhead
breeding grounds at Dalyan near Koycegiz in 1987, the location and
study of wrecks dating from the Ottoman-Russian naval battle in Cesme
Bay from 1988 to 1990, the discovery of two 1600 year-old wrecks
containing glass blocks at Antakya on the eastern Mediterranean in
1992, and protection of the Mediterranean seal launched with the
support of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 1993. The latter
project has now been taken over by the Underwater Research Association
(SAD), and the Aegean resort of Foca continues to be a pilot region
for conservation of the Mediterranean seal and the inshore ecosystem.
Ongoing projects of the association are the Inventory of Sea Caves on
Turkey's Coasts, the Cilicia Region Archaeological Field Surveys, and
Identification of Species on Turkey's Coasts.
The Middle East Technical University Underwater Association organised
the first Underwater Image Hunting Competition on the Aegean island of
Bozcaada in 1992, with the slogan, 'Drop your harpoons and start
One of the association's main objectives is the establishment of
marine national parks, particularly in the northern Aegean region of
Turkey. The photographic competition is more in the nature of a
festival designed to attract public attention to the association's
aims. It has been held at Bozcaada, Gokceada, Foca, Ayvalik and
Denizkoy in previous years, and last year took place at Karaburun.
This year the association hopes that more people than ever will attend
the annual event, which is open to everyone. Preparations are ongoing,
and the place and date will be announced as soon as possible. The
latest information is available on http://sagay.metu.edu.tr So
looking forward to seeing you at SAGAY 2001 to capture the beauty and
magic of Turkey's underwater world. l
* Saner Gulsoken is a photographer.