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  Nr. 107 - September 2007
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Natural & Cultural Treasures of the Aegean

by Eleni Grammatikaki, September 2007
On the evening of August 11th, a fascinating lecture took place at the premises of the “Friends of Drios” society in Drios. Entitled “Natural & Cultural Treasures of the Aegean” the lecture was given by Peter Nicolaides, marine biologist, archaeologist, coastal engineer, commercial diver and director of the Aegean Institute of marine studies.

Through the projection of unique underwater and aerial photographs and scientific charts, Peter referred to a varied range of surprising historical, biological and geological facts about the sea and coastal areas of Paros, Antiparos, Despotiko and other smaller islands, which may very well provide the foundation for a new type of year-round, quality, sustainable and profitable tourism for our island, the so-called “academic tourism”.

Geological Wealth of Paros and Nearby Islands

The geological incidents and formations of these islands are of scientific significance to geologists as well as of interest to visitors. Some examples mentioned by Peter: the sea level has risen 130 meters since the last ice age which has caused many differentiations on the earth’s surface, like the separation of large pieces of land from the mainland, presently islands. Why is this important? Similar ‘separations’ that have occurred on some islands south of Keros have separated animals of the same species who used to live in the same region. In the case of lizards, for example, the separated groups then started to develop differently. Through observation important information is gathered on the different development of their DNA and their immune systems.

Glaronissi and Keros islands are a ‘bio-geology lab’ according to Peter, as the evolution of geological formations on which different biological entities grow may be observed there.
Other interesting facts: in an underwater cave in the Aliki area there are stalactites and stalagmites. In the bay of Tripiti, in a former cavern, there is a continuous fresh water flow – also the case in various underwater spots in the sea around Paros. The church of Aghios Antonios, in the Archilochos area, lies on top of a 7 million year-old volcano.

Many of these geological ‘miracles’ need to be protected, however, in order to remain intact and care must be taken to ensure they are not destroyed by the taking of souvenirs, for example.

Marine Biological Diversity of Paros

“Sea-shells are more beautiful underwater than in our apartment,” says Sara, biologist and diving instructor at the Aegean Diving College. In the sea surrounding Paros and the nearby islands there are plenty of marine biological treasures, some more rare than others. Human activities like fishing, sailing, construction, etc, greatly damage the underwater world. Peter Nicolaides, along with the staff of the Aegean Institute and other like-minded people, have helped in creating a rich sea-bed at the Golden Beach area by actively diving in the area and, by doing so, discouraging fishermen from casting their nets there. Surprisingly, the amount of windsurfing at Golden Beach has also contributed to its protection for the same reason. To further protect marine life, Peter proposed implementing small mooring buoys for private yachts to anchor.

All aquatic life, no matter how annoying it may seem to many summer visitors, plays an important role. The Posidonia sea grass, for example, is a higher plant belonging to the same family as the palm tree. Inside the Posidonia meadows live between 2,500 and 3,000 sea creatures and plants, many of which are of commercial value to fishermen. Each square meter of the Posidonia meadows creates 15-20 litres of oxygen per day. (See Peter’s article on this subject in the May 2000 issue of Paros Life at www.paroslife.com).

As Peter makes clear, it is vital not to destroy any kind of aquatic life or take it away with us as a souvenir or for decorating our homes.

Historical Findings

“The best way to save sub-sea level ancient findings is to allow diving for scientific, educational or recreational purposes”, Peter told us. He also referred to countless historical findings underwater, ranging from pre-historic times to the 1940s. This long list includes: Mesolithic tools in the Drios area, an ancient wreck at Pirgaki, Roman and 1850s wrecks between Paros and Naxos, a Second World War German hydroplane in Heraklia, an ancient underwater well in Aghios Georgios in Antiparos where there is still drinkable running water, an ancient quarry at the Panteronisia islets opposite Aliki, various Roman pots on reefs that can now be found at a depth of 3.5 metres, and of course the famous trapezoid-shaped wall that united Paros and Antiparos: this was 5.5 metres long and was used to transfer animals and to sit on and fish – note that the fishing hook is a 9,000 year-old device!

After conducting some aerial research into the area, Peter, along with other archaeologists, noticed long lines of rocks connecting various parts of the island, as well as islands between them. They form canals up to 700 metres long and about 1 metre wide, where tree trunks can easily be rolled to move them. They were more likely used to transfer pieces of marble to boats or to nearby regions, like from Paros to Despotiko. This is a new finding which needs closer examination.

Concluding, Peter pointed out that ‘recreational’ tourism is declining in Paros, and Greece in general, and is also destroying the island. The emerging forms of tourism are ‘academic’ and ‘cultural’ tourism which can offer year-round profits and a higher quality of tourism.
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