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Calypso Deep

Jan 21, 2023 | Peloponnese | 283 km from Athens

Traveling is actually like collecting missed opportunities. At first glance, it seems that traveling is about discovering the world, getting to know new places and fragments of your own interior, but the longer I am on the road, the more kilometers I have run and cycled, the more I realize how many attractions of this world I have missed . Missed not in the general sense, because we know that the number of wonders on Earth is infinite and we will never be able to see them, but missed in the literal sense – I was somewhere very close, almost brushed and drove on, not even realizing that I was passing something exceptional.

The photo on the left was taken over two years ago, during my first cycling trip around the Peloponnese. I photographed the beautiful blue of the sea that day and the remains of the mighty Venetian fortress Methoni on the south-western tip of the peninsula. I published this photo in a text about Peloponnese on the website (here) and in a report for Ultra magazine. I didn’t even really think about what this picture shows. Until then … because traveling does not end with the moment of returning home, since its most important property is inspiration. Now I know that the island on the left is called Sapienza and was fortified by the Venetians in the 17th century. However, the most interesting thing in this picture is what is in the sea, and exactly below its surface. Right between the island of Sapienza and the fortress of Methoni, 45 km from the coast, there is Calypso Deep – the deepest place in the entire Mediterranean Sea – with coordinates 36°34′N 21°8′E and a depth of 5267 m. Impressive considering that the deepest point in the Baltic Sea is 459 m!

The deepest place, and therefore very special, the most inaccessible and the most isolated from the rest of the world. This is why the NESTOR Project (Neutrino Extended Submarine Telescope with Oceanographic Research Project) has been developed in the depths of Calypso for many years. Its goal was to place at the bottom the device capable of recording the most elusive elementary particles – neutrinos, which with great ease (and in huge numbers) penetrate all the time through our bodies, the entire globe and even the sun. The project was developed for several years, even a trial, much smaller version of the neutrino observatory was placed at the bottom (very interesting documentation of the entire project is available here), but ultimately it was decided to place this European observatory in the Gran Sasso mountains in Italy, in the area of the great plateau of Campo Imperatore, in a cave protected by 1,400 m of rock. Instead of 5 kilometers of water, we have 1.5 kilometers of rock, but the isolation from all disturbance noises works in a similar way.

But why is the deepest place in the Mediterranean called Calypso Deep? The names are almost never accidental, and the association with the elusive neutrinos points to the right track. Calypso is a Greek nymph, daughter of the titan Atlas, a goddess from before the generation of Zeus, from archaic, mysterious times. The name Calypso comes from the Greek word “καλύπτειν” (kalyptein), which means to hide, to cover; no wonder, then, that the most hidden place in the sea was named after this Greek nymph. The word apocalypse, which is much more popular in European culture, is derived from the same root, from apokalýptein ‘to uncover, to reveal’.

The mystery and inaccessibility of Calypso is also evidenced by the fact that the island where our nymph lived – Ogygia – has not yet been identified, although it has survived forever in literature and painting. For Calypso has yet another part of her history. Here is Odysseus during his long journey to Ithaca after the end of the Trojan War, he spent 7 years with Calypso on Ogygia. This relationship was a bit ambiguous since Odysseus made love to Calypso at night and missed his wife Penelope during the day. After all, Calypso still stimulates the imagination of contemporary culture, just to recall the picture of the German painter Arnold Böcklin below, the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, or the work of the once very popular folk singer Susan Vega. Susan’s first CD features the song Calypso – presenting this relationship from the perspective of Atlas’s daughter. This is certainly the saddest track on the album – a silent complaint about the cruelty of fate and the finality of God’s judgments (Calypso was forced by Zeus to release Odysseus). Susan Vega sings like that:

My name is Calypso
I have let him go
In the dawn he sails away
To be gone forever more
And the waves will take him in again
But he’ll know their ways now
I will stand upon the shore
With a clean heart

And my song in the wind
The sand will sting my feet
And the sky will burn
It’s a lonely time ahead
I do not ask him to return
I let him go
I let him go

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