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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Sailing the Wine Dark Seas

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, July 16, 2014/Categories: photography, environment, adventure

In the Odyssey,  Homer  tells us the story of Odysseus and his struggles returning to his home after the Trojan Wars. Odysseus had only rudimentary maps to guide him so he often wandered aimlessly on the 'Wine Dark Seas'. Three millennia after his epic adventures, maps of the islands and Greek coastlines provide greater, if not particularly more poetic, details.

Historical investigations have tried to trace the footsteps of Odysseus using land references noted by Homer. A tourist travel map, produced by classicists at  Standford University , followed a route where Odysseus reportedly stopped along his journey to find Ithaca.


Following in the Footsteps of Odysseus  (credit: Stanford University, 2012)

The regional geology seen during Homer's era ~850 BCE was most likely much different from today, however. Greece lies in a volcanically active and earthquake prone zone and parts of the coastline have risen or fallen dramatically in the intervening 3500 years since Odysseus set sail from Troy. The narrow Corinth gap could have easily been a sea channel between the  Peloponnese  and mainland Greece during Homer's time. It is dry land now.

A recent NASA image provides a fine perspective on the rocky coastlines and narrow gaps between islands and mainland Greece. The sculpted and jagged coastline shows the tortured effects of constant rock falls and earthquake created scarps.


Peloponnese & Greek Coastline, 3-21-2014 (credit: NASA)

It is fun to reimagine ancient travel plans using new maps. Perhaps another Homeric reference will offer a bit of new insight in finally locating where Odysseus finally landed.
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