Law of the Sea Part 2: The Albanian Coastline

Posted on Wednesday, Aug 3rd, 2016

Is anyone thirsty?

In 2011, the RPM Nautical Foundation, an American non-profit, and their Albanian archeologist counterparts discovered a Roman shipwreck lying just 50 meters deep near the port city of Vlora, 90 miles southwest of Albania’s capital, Tirana. The Albanian Coast, once called the Illyrian Coast, is very much undiscovered—with over 20 shipwrecks located in the past five years alone.

Albania’s potential for discovery is in part due to its tumultuous sociopolitical past. Over the course of its history, Albania has been ruled by Serbia, the Ottoman Empire, Italy, Germany, the USSR, and China. Only recently, in 1992, was the 46-year reign of communism ended in favor of a multiparty democracy. In June 2014, Albania became a candidate for EU accession, but it is not expected to join until 2020. With political change have come new opportunities for archeological and scientific discoveries.

This is a very exciting time for development and discovery in Albania as more funds are put toward exploration in the area. Luckily, Albania is the last stop on our new dynamic Three Country Kayak Tour: Exploring Croatia, Montenegro & Albania by Kayak, which means we get to explore parts of this incredible place rich with history and culture.

In the last five years, groups of US and Albanian archeologists have been pursuing studies on Albania's rich, untouched coastline, finding over 30 shipwrecks from ancient times to current day. One of the most exciting finds was the Roman shipwreck near Vlora dating back to the 1st century BC. Over 300 Amphora wine jugs, almost all unbroken and in perfect shape (alas, all empty of their goods), were discovered onboard. Researchers believe these vessels contained Albanian wine or olive oil headed for Italy, France and Spain. This discovery shows an exciting dive into the history of the ancient Southern Illyrian Coast and its trade associations with the Mediterranean.

The exact location of this underwater discovery is being kept a secret while the Albanian and American archeologists study more about this find. But, could it be that as you are paddling over the pristine waters off of the coast of Albania—exploring the cliffs, caves, and beaches of this exotic destination on our kayak tour—you are indeed paddling over thousands of years of history lost at sea? I can’t help but imagine all of the generations of Albanians living in this beautiful country that borders both the Adriatic and Ionian Sea and the strong maritime ties that shaped their lives and livelihoods.

What else could be laying below our fiberglass kayaks, undiscovered, unaccounted for, living a life lost at sea?