ATHENS -- Greece inaugurated its first underwater museum, at the site of an ancient shipwreck off the uninhabited islet of Peristera, near Alonissos island, in a unique opening ceremony held Saturday in the presence of Culture Minister Lina Mendoni.
At a depth of 25 meters, Governor of Thessaly Kostas Agorastos and popular singer Sakis Rouvas both dived in the clear blue waters to cut the ribbon, to the applause of Minister Mendoni, who was following the event onboard a vessel, and dozens of private yachts and fishing boats that flocked to witness the special event.
Archaeologists believe that a large Athenian merchant vessel, carrying between 3,000 to 4,000 amphorae of wine from Chalkidiki in northern Greece, sank near Peristera due to bad weather around 425 BC. Astoundingly, nearly all of the monochromatic two-handled vases have since remained intact, destined to be discovered by an Alonissos fisherman in 1985.
"The Peristera shipwreck museum is finally delivered - albeit on a pilot basis until October - to the residents of Alonissos, the people of Greece and the international community," Mendoni told Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA). Alonissos has the great comparative advantage to have avoided mass tourism in past decades, she noted, "so it has an extremely important broader natural environment and a unique aquamarine environmental park."
She also pointed up what she called "the modern trend for sustainable development," as being "our own target and society's target, not only of Greece but of the planet. Only in the context of sustainable development can we talk about both life and overall development," she exclaimed.
"Alonissos, Thessaly and Greece present to humanity the 'Parthenon of underwater museums," mused Governor of Thessaly Kostas Agorastos, who added that, in his opinion, the Peristera shipwreck is of equal significance to the Parthenon, as it is "the planet's oldest shipwreck that can be dived through by humans."
The Peristera shipwreck will be open to tours by certified divers from August 3 to October 2, while visitors who cannot dive can instead take a virtual reality tour of the ancient shipwreck at Alonissos island's information center.