During five days of drilling at the end of July 2018 we successfully drilled 4 boreholes in the Gulf of Livadi and recovered 121m of sediment core – over double the amount that we had hoped for.
Prof. John Underhill, Chief Scientist at Heriot-Watt University, who directed the operation, hailed it “a tremendous success and a fantastic result which exceeded our wildest expectations.”
The cores will allow us to understand how and when the sea level rose to enter and fill the Gulf of Livadi and flood the channel that separated Paliki from the rest of Kefalonia, making Paliki a separate island. Which then, of course, means that Paliki matches Homer’s description for the location of Odysseus’ homeland of Ithaca.
Most importantly, radiocarbon dating of organic material taken from the cores will give us the dates for when the marine channel was filled.
Analysis of shell fragments and tiny nanofossils will also provide accurate ages using the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dating technique that will help us build a picture of how the shape of the islands changed over time.
The cores are now stored in Athens where they will be carefully examined, sampled and analysed by Maria Triantaphyllou, Professor of Micropaleontology, Paleoenvironment and Stratigraphy at the University of Athens.
For the Odysseus Unbound theory to be valid, the sea must have filled the channel during the Holocene (which extends from 11,700 years ago to the present) but some time before the Late Bronze Age, 3,200 years ago.
During the last Ice Age, 21,500 years ago, global sea levels were 120m lower than today because enormous volumes of water were trapped in the Polar Ice Caps.
During this “low-stand”, the exposed, older Pleistocene (2.58 million to 11,700 years ago) rocks were eroded and carved by a river into a deep, steep-sided valley running from what we now know as the Thinia valley to the south.
As the ice melted, the sea level rose progressively to fill the valley and may have filled the channel as long as 6000 years ago. The data from the Holocene sediments in the cores will allow us to determine this date much more precisely.
The boundary where the more recent Holocene sediments cover the older rocks is known as an unconformity and is shown as the white line on the seismic image acquired by Fugro in 2010.
We penetrated that unconformity in at least three of the four boreholes. This will enable us to calibrate the Fugro seismic results to create a 3-dimensional image of the rising sea levels.