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Mar 27, 2007

Team to Search for Lost Island

A team is planning to prepare a geophysical map of a 6 kilometer long isthmus on the Greek island of Kefallinia in an effort to locate the island of Ithaca mentioned in in Homer’s Odyssey. FUGRO, a geotechnical, survey, and geoscience firm, based in The Netherlands announced that they are joining forces with Odysseus Unbound and IGME (Greece's Geological Institute) in an effort to locate the mysterious island.

Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are the oldest texts in Western literature. In them, Homer recounts the exploits of Odysseus, who after defeating Troy with the famous horse, returned to Ithaca, an island somewhere to the west of Greece. For centuries it was thought that the Iliad was a work of fiction. Then in the 1870s Heinrich Schliemann excavated Troy, in northwestern Turkey. However, the location of the island of Ithaca, as described in the Odyssey has remained a mystery for over 2,500 years.

In late 2005 Professors James Diggle and John Underhill launched Odysseus Unbound, a project to test the theory that the island of Ithaca is the westernmost peninsula of the island of Kefallinia (Paliki). The professors theorize that Paliki was formerly separated from the rest of Kefallinia by a narrow marine connection (“Strabo’s Channel”) that has now been infilled and turned into a land-locked isthmus by catastrophic rockfall and landslides triggered by earthquakes.

To test this theory, FUGRO will map the subsurface of the area and in collaboration with the team, reconstruct how it may have looked 3,000 years ago. The firm, which specializes in preparing maps for the oil and gas industry, will use the same technology to investigate the structure and composition of the sub-surface of the isthmus. Then experts will be brought in to try and build a 3-D model of the regional topography and how it has changed over time.

Image courtesy of FUGRO.