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The Skerki Bank, a sunken treasure off the coast of Tunisia

An international underwater archaeological research mission is spending two weeks in this area rich in wrecks and biodiversity located between Tunisia and Sicily. This is an opportunity for KAWA to introduce you to this place, whose protection is of prime importance.

Underwater archaeological treasures off the coast of Tunisia? You read that right. A team of underwater archaeologists is carrying out an archaeological research mission this week and until 3 September at the Skerki bank, in the international waters separating Tunisia and Sicily.

Aboard the Alfred Merlin, a French underwater research vessel, this mission brings together eight countries: Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Spain, France, Italy, Morocco and Tunisia.

A trap for ships

The Skerki Bank is known to contain numerous archaeological finds of exceptional historical, artistic and cultural value, including five Roman wrecks – dating from the 1st century BC to the 4th century AD and measuring up to 30 metres in length – amphorae, vases, glass and bronze utensils.

The bank, being 40 cm from the surface of the water on the road between Rome and Carthage, was a trap for ships.


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In addition, during the Second World War, the famous Battle of Skerki Bank near the shoal saw a British Royal Navy squadron sink a convoy of Italian and German ships. As a result, several wrecks now litter the seabed in the area.

A treasure trove of biodiversity

Located in international waters, the Skerki Bank is today one of the most preserved places in the Mediterranean. The incredible seabed, once plundered by coral hunters, is home to numerous caves and walls lined with gorgonians and populated by colonies of lobsters.

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Schools of barracuda, amberjacks, snappers and large groupers can be seen here, as well as dolphins, pilot whales, tuna and turtles, and it is also where the white shark breeds.

The Skerki is part of a precious maze of shoals and seamounts that dot the seabed between Sicily and Tunisia. Today, these places are considered to be the main biodiversity hotspots in the Mediterranean, representing also real “meeting points” in the open sea for many species.

A place to preserve

The land that emerged during the ice ages, the seabed of the Strait of Sicily and the Skerki area could also preserve traces of the life of prehistoric man, in addition to the numerous shipwrecks of all ages and origins that reflect the enormous historical and cultural wealth of the Mare nostrum.


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All these elements make it a place to be preserved from illegal fishing and looting, which were once legion.

It is in this sense that this research mission has been set up by Unesco: the researchers are not concerned with collecting fragments but, in the first instance, with mapping the sector in order to draw up an inventory of what the Skerki bank contains.

Published on 25 August 2022