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Description of Amphitrite 

According to Greek mythology, Amphitrite was one of the fifty Nereids. They were the nymphs worshiped as goddesses of the calm sea. Amphitrite according to Hesiod, was the daughter of Nereus and Doridas, one of the most beautiful Nereids, and Poseidon the god of the sea of rivers and fountains fell in love with her when he saw her dance and marry her. After her marriage to Poseidon, Amphitrite became queen of the sea and was called Poseidonia. Triton and several nymphs were born from Poseidon and Amphitrite. The sailors and the statues of Amphitrite were adorned by many ancient temples. She was the female personification of the sea the mother of whale fish and dolphins. She was often depicted holding the trident, a power she acquired when she became Poseidon's wife.

Geological context of Amphitrite Cave

The Amphitrite Cave forms in carbonate rocks and belongs to the solutional type of caves. This type owes its genesis and evolution to the chemical dissolution by the underground water. More specifically, the meteoric water (rainwater) contains a small quantity of CO2, which is enhanced when this water reaches the soil. From that point, the water continues its downward route and is added to the underground water volume. At the soil, the CO2 concentration is increased due to the biological activity (microorganisms) as well as the decomposition of organic matter. The result of this concentration is the formation of a weak carbonic acid (Η2CO3) and the chemical dissolution of carbonate rocks, present under the soil cover. This chemical dissolution is responsible for the formation of cavities inside the carbonate rocks and for their enlargement. This process is the so-called speleogenesis. So, Amphitrite Cave is a product of such a process which is ongoing for a time period ranging from several hundred thousand years to a few million years.

The location and the inner morphology of a cave are indicative of the geographical evolution its wider surficial landscape has undergone. The Amphitrite Cave is located underwater, in the Aegean Sea, but its inner environment and decoration reveal its interesting story. The cave includes a variety of speleothems (i.e. stalactites, stalagmites) that need subaerial conditions for their formation. This means the cave was not always under the sea level.

The sea level was constantly changing during the geological past, between extreme conditions coinciding with the advance and retreat of glaciers. During the ice domination (ice ages), the sea level stood at 120 m approximately, below the present one, whereas during the ice melting and as the global climate was gradually warming, the sea was rising and eventually regained its former position at some meters above the present one.

The Aegean region and especially, the area of the Central Cyclades Islands comprised extended land fields at 420,000, 340,000, and 20,000 years before present (during the ice maxima of the Marine Isotope Stages 12, 10 and 2), when the climate was cold and the sea level was lower. This means that the Amphitrite Cave was functioning as a dry cave at these periods with an active secondary deposition of speleothems. The cave entrance which lies at a small depth and the geotectonic regime (Central Aegean Sea) characterized by subsidence, supports the location of Amphitrite at the vadose zone, only during the cold climatic periods and up to the re-establishment of warm climate and the sea level regaining.

 

                                                                                                                                Isidoros Kampolis

                                                                                                    PhD Candidate at NTUA / NCSR ‘Demokritos’

                                                                                                                      MSc Geologist - Speleologist

The cave of Amphitrite is located on the SW side of Paros, amid a cluster of small islands. Amphitrite is the only known submarine cave in the Aegean sea and specifically in the Cyclades cluster. Its entrance is at -6m deep. Upon entering, there is a small cavern that reflects just a small fraction of the cave’s real beauty. Amphitrite has a very impressive decoration, with beautiful stalactite and stalagmite material enveloped in a delicate white sand veil. Amphitrite has 2 main lines. Line A is about 250m with a maximum depth of -24m and average depth at -17m. Line B about 150-180m and the maximum depth of -50m reaches. The cave has a steady temperature of 17-19 degrees Celsius all year round. In its depths, the diver will encounter a magnificent decoration, as the Amphitrite was a dry cave before 8.000-9.000 years ago. At -50m there are animal bone remains, probably from a turtle. Line A gives divers the opportunity of an easy swim, with a Nitrox bottom gas of 32% O2 that allows for at least a 45-50 minutes dive without deco.