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Author: Mariusz Milka



Most of the modern shipwrecks on the seabed of Split-Dalmatia County used to be merchant ships from the 19th and 20th century who met their fate in naval accidents caused by inclement weather and navigational errors or which were sunk during wartime. Most of these ships were made from iron and their wrecks are still relatively well preserved, with visible remains of hulls, superstructures as well as occasional remains of engines and propellers. These wrecks are also extremely rich habitats for marine flora and fauna, making them visually very attractive and, consequently, particularly interesting for diving.  

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Towards the end of World War II, the island of Vis was one of the most important strategic points not only in the Adriatic but also in the entirety of ​​Southeastern Europe. This was due to the fact that, from 1944, it was the site of an airfield which was used for emergency landings by damaged American bombers on their way back from bombing targets in Eastern and Central Europe and as a base for British fighter-bomber operations along the Adriatic coast and the interior. It comes as no surprise then that a large number of plane wrecks from World War II can be found in the waters of the island of Vis and Dalmatia in general. More than 10 of them have been located so far, and the best-preserved ones are some of the most attractive locations for recreational and technical diving in the Adriatic in general.



The most important naval battle in the history of the Adriatic, and one of the most significant naval engagements in European history in general, took place on July 20th 1866 in the waters around the island of Vis. The Battle of Vis, or “Vi?ki boj” in Croatian, was the first major naval battle in which ironclads and steamships took part and the first engagement in which two armored fleets battled on the high seas. The Austrian fleet under Wilhelm von Tegetthoff defeated the stronger and more numerous Italian fleet under the command of Admiral Persano, preventing Italy from occupying Vis and other parts of the eastern Adriatic coast. The Italian ironclads Re d’Italia and Palestro were sunk in the battle and their wrecks lie preserved to this day in the depths around the island of Vis.

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Dozens of ancient shipwrecks have been discovered so far on the seabed of ​​Split-Dalmatia County, from the earliest ones dating to the 4th century BC, which are also the earliest known shipwrecks on the eastern coast of the Adriatic, to those dating to Late Antiquity in the 4th and 5th centuries. They are the remains of merchant ships that most often transported various cargo in amphorae or, more rarely, stones and building materials (sarcophagi, stone vessels, stone blocks, tegulae). Although a large number of known amphora sites have, unfortunately, been partially or completely destroyed, several untouched sites have been found in the last few years and an even larger number have remained preserved at greater depths. With the 
development of diving, such sites are gradually becoming available for underwater archaeological research, as well as for conservation, presentation and diving tourism. 



Underwater archaeological heritage can be presented on the actual seabed (in situ) or as part of museum collections, whether entire sites or only individual archaeological finds are exhibited. Although the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage recommends in situ presentation, it is nevertheless necessary, in some cases, to move parts or entire sites to museums in order to better preserve them. This manner of presentation makes underwater archaeological sites accessible to visitors who do not have diving qualifications. Furthermore, museums are good starting points for exploring the world of underwater archaeology and getting acquainted with underwater cultural heritage. 

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Ancient architecture on the seabed of ​​Split-Dalmatia County is represented by the remains of Roman villae maritimae, fishponds, port facilities and docks. Large parts of these sites were located on land in Antiquity, but due to the rise of sea levels, they are now below the surface of the water. Owing to the small depth at which they are located, they are suitable for diving without prior diving experience or equipment, making them extremely attractive and easily accessible to the general population. 

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