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Greece Lifts Long Ban on Divers Exploring Old Shipwrecks, Planes

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Greece inaugurates its first underwater museum off Alonissos island. (Photo by Eurokinissi)

A prohibition in effect for decades keeping scuba divers away from undersea ship and plane wrecks is being lifted for 97 sites going back as far as the mid-19th Century to 1970, most from World War II.

The Culture Ministry, wanting to take Greece beyond a summer tourism season and create year-long attractions, recommended lifting the ban, which comes after the inauguration of an underwater museum off the Peristera islet next to the island of Alonissos in August, 2020.

The first underwater museum in the country preserves an ancient shipwreck, a lure for divers and officials hope it will be a model to lure more sustainable tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic showed how susceptible the sector is.

Located in the National Marine Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades, in the Aegean Sea, the museum is part of the largest marine protected area in Europe, The National Geographic earlier said in a feature.

Because of looting concerns, the undersea antiquities were previously accessible only to archaeologists and those with special permission. Now recreational divers can plunge into the waters and, at a depth of about 80 feet, encounter the Peristera, named after the neighboring uninhabited islet.

As the wreck dates back to about 425 BC, diving to it is like traveling in a time machine, the magazine said, making it irresistible to divers and underwater archaeologists looking for more clues into ancient life too.