Surely readers and fans of the Odyssey will find it curious to know that in Greek waters there is an abyssal trench, very similar to the oceanic trenches of the Pacific, which reaches the not inconsiderable depth of 5,267 meters, that is, more than 5 kilometers .
It is known, appropriately enough, as Calypso’s Pit. And although it does not reach the fascinating depth of many of the trenches in the western Pacific (there are up to six that exceed 10 kilometers), it is the deepest point in the Mediterranean Sea.
It is located in the southeast of the Ionian Sea, about 62.6 kilometers away, in a southwesterly direction, from the coast of Pylos, the place where Homer placed the palace of the famous Nestor.
Its name refers to the nymph Calypso, daughter of the titan Atlas, who appears in the Odyssey as queen of the island of Ogygia. There she was found by Odysseus, to whom he offered her immortality if he stayed with her and whom he kept with her love for several years. They even had two children, Nausítoo and Nausínoo. Legend has it that when Odysseus, longing for his wife Penelope, left, Calypso (although immortal) died of grief.
The ingenious Odysseus answered her: “It would be difficult, O queen, to recount my misfortunes, since the heavenly gods sent me in great abundance; but I will tell you about that about which you ask and interrogate me. There is a distant island in the sea, Ogygia, where the daughter of Atlante dwells, the malicious Calypso, with beautiful braids, a powerful deity who does not communicate with any of the gods or mortal men; but to me, oh unfortunate, some numen took me to her home, after Jove split my swift ship in the middle of the winey ponto, throwing against it the fiery lightning. My brave companions perished, but I clung to the keel of the crooked vessel, I wandered for nine days, and on the tenth dark night the gods took me to the island of Ogygia, where Calypso dwells, with pretty braids, a terrible goddess: she picked me up, he treated me solicitously and lovingly, supported me, and often told me that he would make me immortal and exempt from old age forever, without ever succeeding in persuading me. I was detained there for seven years, and I incessantly watered with tears the divine garments that Calypso gave me. But when the eighth year came, she exhorted me and invited me to leave; either because of some message from Jupiter, or because her very thought had changed
Homer, Odyssey VII.240
The first to descend to the bottom of the Calypso Pit were Captain Gérard Huet de Froberville, Charles L. Drake, and Henri Germain Delauze. On September 27, 1965, the three of them, aboard the French bathyscaphe Archimede they reached a depth marked by the instruments of 5,110 meters. However, due to poor calibration, the measurement was left unconfirmed.
The second manned descent occurred on February 10, 2020, by Victor Vescovo and Prince Albert of Monaco who, using advanced measurement sensors, were able to verify and confirm that the 1965 French expedition had indeed reached the deepest point of the Mediterranean. They found an accumulation of rubbish, plastic and other waste at the bottom, which they photographed and can be seen on the Caladan Oceanic website. In addition, Albert of Monaco became the head of state who has made the deepest dive in history.
The 5,267 meters deep (5,109 according to Vescovo’s measurement) of the Calypso Trench are located in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean, where the greatest depths vary between 3,500 and 4,000 meters. The western basin, on the other hand, reaches depths between 2,500 and 3,500 meters. Both basins are separated by the Sicilian Channel (430 meters deep), the Strait of Messina (barely 80 meters deep) and the Strait of Otranto (800 meters).
The reason for the great depth of the Mediterranean in the area of the Calypso Trench is that there the African continental plate is pressing down by sliding under the Eurasian plate, a process called subduction.
The only two species that have been detected in the trench are Coryphaenoides mediterraneusa deep-sea fish that also inhabits the Gulf of Mexico, Iceland, and the North Atlantic, and Acanthephyra eximiaa kind of shrimp.
Remote Sensing of the European Seas (Vitorio Barale, Martin Gade, eds.) / Hydro International / Caladan Oceanic / Linley, TD, Craig, J., Jamieson, AJ et al. Bathyal and abyssal demersal bait-attending fauna of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Sea Biol 165, 159 (2018). doi.org/10.1007/s00227-018-3413-0 / Wikipedia