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  Field Notes From
Black Sea Mysteries

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View Field Notes
From Author

Robert D. Ballard

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From Photographer

Randy Olson

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Randy Olson (top) and Fen Montaigne

image: compass
On the Black Sea

Field Notes From Photographer
Randy Olson
An expedition team had been working at Ikiztepe all summer, and they had only found four skeletons of the ancient explorers who took shortcuts across the center of the Black Sea to get to the Eurasian Steppe. I just happened to get to the site on the day they uncovered two of the skeletons. The remains of the mariners were lying there exposed on the ground. I photographed them and then, an hour later, they were packed away and gone for further study. It was serendipity. Civil aviation was an experiment in Turkey that lasted for a brief period, so there is only one Cessna on the entire Turkish Black Sea coast. I needed to get said Cessna up to about 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) to photograph the Kaçkar range, but Cessnas generally have an altitude of about 12,000 feet (3,700 meters).
After weeks of negotiating by cell phone, we finally got the plane, a pilot, and good weather. Our only problem was that the guy who leased the plane to us wouldn’t get out of it. He wanted to stay inside to make sure he got his money. He was too heavy for the plane, me, and the pilot to get up over the mountains, so I did some photographs on the first flight and then negotiated to get the overweight money-counter out of the plane so we could go up later that week over the mountains.
Sinop was an ancient city, so I knew I had to have a good aerial shot of it. We flew the same Cessna in from Samsun one night, and I paid the entire crew at the Sinop airport to come in before dawn the next day so I could do the job.
That morning we circled and circled Sinop until there was just a hint of light. The balance between the city lights and the ambient light was starting to get good. So I said to myself, “The next pass is going to be perfect.”
We circled around again and came up on the city as the light reached perfection. Then the unthinkable happened. The entire city blacked out in a power outage. Fortunately, I got a good shot during the previous pass.

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