The secrets of the Black Sea


At the border between Europe and Asia lies a sea which has long been shrouded in mystery. To the ancient Greeks, it was called the 'Inhospitable Sea' due to its treacherous conditions and aggressive inhabitants, but it has since become widely known as the Black Sea. But even to this day there is much we don't know about this fascinating body of water, including exactly how it received its current name. And for all it's mysteriousness, the Black Sea certainly makes for a truly remarkable adventure for the modern-day traveller. 

With its many idyllic coastal landmarks and renowned historical sites, the Black Sea is best explored from the water itself. With the ability to access ports and harbours larger vessels can't reach, an Emerald Cruises superyacht will introduce you to the wealth of the wonders this enigmatic sea holds. To help prepare you for a luxurious getaway to the inspiring shorelines which once frightened the Greeks, here is a look into some of the most captivating mysteries of the Black Sea. 

Why is the Black Sea called the Black Sea?

Since about 475 BCE, there are records of a body of water between the Mediterranean Sea and the Caucasus Mountains being referred to as the Black Sea. Following in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks who regarded it as inhospitable, mariners of this time believed that uttering the name of this sea was itself bad luck. And while it's common knowledge that sailors, perhaps more than anyone else, are a superstitious folk, the word 'black' here is likely not in reference to anything nefarious or evil.

There are instead two possible explanations for the sea being called black which historians have gone back and forth on for decades. The first is that the name is derived from the appearance of the water and the harsh weather conditions which move rapidly across the sea. Dark water combined with the dark skies of an oncoming storm makes for a pretty clear explanation for what it's called the Black Sea. While this is a simple and attractive explanation for the sea's etymology, it is actually not the most popular among experts. 

It's widely regarded that the Black Sea gets its name from an ancient system of colour symbolism which references the four cardinal directions (north, south, east and west). Under this system, black is the designated colour for north, while red is south. Therefore, those who lived north of the Black Sea or south of the Red Sea in the Middle East could not be the one's who named these seas. From this it has been deduced that it must have been the First Persian Empire, existing from 522 BCE to 486 BCE, who first began calling it the Black Sea. Truly, exploring this ancient sea is a step back in time!

The Black Sea shipwreck: a ship graveyard?

As mentioned above, sailors long feared the storms and unknown inhabitants along the Black Sea coast. However, this was not the sole reason for their caution. Many believed that the sea had mystical properties which stalled death and thus haunted the sea. This resulted from tales being told of whole ships and sailors remaining intact and visible in the shallower parts of the sea. You can imagine that such a sight would be cause for alarm for anyone who happens to be sailing through these waters.

We now know this is because a majority of the Black Sea is made up of what is known as anoxic water. This means that the water itself lacks a considerable amount of oxygen. This is caused by the fact that the upper level of the Black Sea's water does not mix with the lower levels. Therefore, the lower part of the sea is mostly devoid of nutrients from the sun, oxygen and life. This lack of oxygen slows the breakdown of organic material (such as wood) which thus preserves ill-fated ship wrecks for much longer. While this phenomena has left for us today a vast amount of well-preserved shipwrecks and ancient archaeological sites, it's not hard to imagine just how frightening this would have been for the mariners of antiquity.
 

A great flood & Noah's Ark?

 Something which continues to baffle researchers about the Black Sea is the evidence of a catastrophic rise in sea level which may have occurred between 7,600 and 8,800 years ago. Known as the Black Sea deluge hypothesis, this theory argues that as glaciers retreated and world-wide sea levels began to rise, the Mediterranean Sea began to spill over the Bosporus Strait (where the city of Istanbul is today). Drastically increasing the size of the Black Sea, it's believed that a flow of water around 200 times the amount of Niagara Falls poured over the strait a day.

The evidence for this ancient flood- which would have been both rapid and catastrophic for the inhabitants of the Black Sea peninsula - hearken to the mythic tales of great floods which appear throughout many oral and written histories. One of the most famous of these is of course the Old Testament's tale of Noah's Ark in which the world floods at God's command. While there is no evidence that the Black Sea deluge was in-fact one of these mythic floods, researchers believe that it's occurrence may at least be the inspiration for such early myths...

It's time to discover the Black Sea region

Are you thinking of exploring this enigmatic sea for yourself? Join us in 2023, and dive into the mystery and wonder of the Black Sea as you uncover its timeless shores on board our brand new superyachts, Emerald Azzurra and Emerald Sakara. No longer an inhospitable place, embrace the spirit of the Black Sea region's vast tales, historic battlefields and its many golden beaches. Delight as Middle Eastern and Western European cultures collide in a spectacular fashion as you sail in complete modern style and luxury.