UNDERWATER ARCHAEOLOGY | The wrecks of the “Falcata Zone” of Messina

Known as the Falcata Zone because of its shape, the peninsula of Saint Raineri, in Messina, tells more than a millenary story, centuries older than the canonical foundation of the Zancle colony done by the Chalcidese.

The Falcata Zone, Guardian of Wrecks

That stretch of the Ionian Sea that bathed the peninsula was the scene of numerous battles. Its seabed and coasts became cemeteries for boats, which, through the passing of time, were forgotten.
But something still peeps out from the past, as a reminder of a time when Messina was the crossroads of the main trade and connection routes between the Island, the Italian peninsula and the rest of the Mediterranean.

The Rigoletto

Along the Southern part of the Falcata area lies, undisturbed, the wreck of a historic ferry: the Rigoletto. The wreck owes its fame to the prow that comes out of the water, clearly visible a few metres from the shore and not far from the Spanish Citadel. While the stern was sinking, resting on the seabed, it became the habitat of several species of fish, unique in the Mediterranean Sea (trumpet fish and pink and black castanets). In 1968 the ship was sold to Italy and, under the name “Maddalena Lofaro”, made numerous trips. On the first of July of 1980, a fire broke out on the ship, while it was carrying used cars from Antwerp (Belgium) to Beirut in Lebanon. The crew was forced to abandon the boat, which was towed from the Mediterranean to the port of Messina. Now too damaged to travel by sea, it was abandoned in the area of the Real Cittadella, where, in shallow waters, it found its last port. The Rigoletto is not the only wreck along the Falcata area, just as it is not the only one found at the bottom of the Sicilian coast.

Other modern wrecks: the ferry Cariddi

Another wreck that can be admired in the depths of the Falcata area is that of the Cariddi ferry, a historic boat dating back to the early 1930s. This allowed the railway connection between the Calabrian and Sicilian coasts across the Strait of Messina. The Cariddi was a symbol of great innovation and was the first ship to have a diesel propulsion system.
She was sunk during the Second World War, re-emerged in the following years and redeveloped with a lengthening of the hull, only to be decommissioned in 1990. Finally, now forgotten along the coast, she sank in silence in the 2000s. The ship, a favourite destination for scuba diving, gives shelter and life to countless marine animal species (shrimps, sea bass, groupers, etc.), lying on the rocky limestone seabed.

In antique

During a research campaign, carried out with scans, Rov verifications and scuba diving, two perfectly intact wrecks of merchant ships, dating back to the II-IV century A.D., were discovered at the bottom of the Strait of Messina. The area involved in the archeo-submarine countryside embraces a stretch of sea of 49 km2, not far from the Falcata area. In this operation public and private institutions have worked in synergy: Aurora Trust, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage of the Sea of Palermo, Oloturia Sub, Bimaris Edition. The research campaign is part of the “Atlantis” project, a two-year plan for mapping the seabed of the Strait of Messina. During the campaign that took place from 13th to 19th June of 2011, well-preserved North African amphorae were found in the first shipwreck, well-preserved whole millstones, lead ingots with a stamp, fundamental to identify their origin, and three iron anchors, now preserved in the warehouses of Zanca Palace in Messina.

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