AN expedition to uncover lost war relics beneath the waves at Gallipoli will set off for Turkey next month after being saved by a grant from the State Government.
The archaeological survey, known as ‘Project Beneath Gallipoli’ will map the forgotten underwater battlefields of Anzac Cove, North Beach and Suvla Bay.
Coffs Harbour diver and photographer Mark Spencer is set to rejoin the team that in 1998 surveyed the famous World War I wreck of the Australian submarine the AE2 – lost in the Dardanelles Strait on April 30, 1915.
The team hopes to map the remains of sunken landing craft, stores and ammunition along with the famous jetties, Watsons and Williams piers.
“The most conspicuous remnants of the beach landings from 1915 are the footings of the old jetties the troops built during the eight months of occupation,” Dr Spencer told The Coffs Coast Advocate yesterday.
“We expect, however, to find other - and hopefully more personal – artefacts on the sea floor with our diving searches, from dog tags to cigarette lighters, bullet shells, bayonets and magazines.
“This is a landmark project. It adds another dimension to our understanding of the Gallipoli landings and also helps to make this historical event more tangible for the average Australian, as this event slides further back into history.”
The trip is one of great sentimental importance for Dr Spencer, whose great uncle Private Hector Markey served as a stretcher bearer during the conflict.
“I never knew until the last few months that I had a close relative who served at Gallipoli – an amazing part of my family’s history,” he said.
Dr Spencer’s family link to the war will be a major focus of a Channel Seven documentary following the expedition, which will air on the Sunday Night show hosted by Mike Munro later in the year.
Short of funding until late last week, the trip was only made possible after Premier Kristina Keneally provided a $21,000 State Government funding grant.
“This independent survey is so important to Australia’s military and cultural heritage,” Premier Keneally said. “Gallipoli has immense significance to the people of Australia, who remember the sacrifices of our fallen heroes,” she said.
The expedition, led by NSW maritime archaeologist Tim Smith, the deputy director of the NSW Heritage branch, will depart on May 22.