Prolonged drought brings to light Austro-Hungarian steamship in Albania lake

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 5, 2017 11:27

Prolonged drought brings to light Austro-Hungarian steamship in Albania lake

TIRANA, Sept. 5 – The drastic decline in water levels at the Shkodra Lake in northern Albania following one of the worst droughts in decades has brought to light a 19th century Austro-Hungarian steamship which is believed to have sunken in Shiroka, a tourist lake village just outside Shkodra.

The military vessel, known by local residents as the Austrian ship, is a steamboat measuring 20 meters long and 4 meters wide, bearing testimony to Shkodra Lake waters having been navigable by early 20th century when water levels are estimated to have been much higher.

Local Rozafa TV reports the steamboat apparently sunk due to an explosion damaging its stern, but the ship’s condition is quite good and can serve as a tourist attraction in one Shkodra’s most popular lake areas, famous for its landscape and food.

Shiroka restaurants are famous for cooking the local Carp casserole, drawing local and international tourists, especially at weekends.

Shared by both Albania and Montenegro, Lake Shkodra is the Balkans’ largest with a surface area of 475 km2 and has been included in the list of Ramsar site of wetlands of international importance for its variety of habitats since a decade now.

The discovered ship is also testimony to Albania’s traditional relations with former Austria-Hungary and Austria, one of the key allies of Albania from the country’s independence to present-day support for Euro-Atlantic integration.

During World War I, almost the whole Albanian territory was occupied by the Austrian-Hungarian army while Shkodra, at that time the country’s largest city, became the seat of the military administration from 1916 to 1918.

Albania-Austria diplomatic relations date back to the 18th century, when Albania was still under Ottoman rule, with the opening of a consulate in Durres in 1751. This year, the two countries are marking the 60th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

The most important support Albania received from then-Austria-Hungary was in the critical years of 1912-1913 during the country’s independence, when the country’s existence was called into question by the Great Powers of that time.

Considered the father of Albanian studies and Albanology, Johann Georg von Hahn, a nineteenth-century Austrian diplomat and explorer, was one of the first to demonstrate the Albanian language’s membership in the Indo-European family.

This is not the first time shipwrecks and other underwater items dating back from ancient times to World War II have been discovered in Albanian waters.

Scanning the southern Albanian waters along the Riviera coastline, a U.S.-Albanian expedition has discovered numerous amphoras and artefacts including ancient Greek, Roman, medial and modern finds during the past decade. Dozens of wreck sites including warships and armoured vehicles have also been discovered.

Back in 2007, the mission discovered an ancient shipwreck near the waters of Butrint archeological park, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southern Albania, before tracing a giant cargo ship believed to have sunk during World War II in the waters of Karaburun peninsula, Vlora, four years later.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 5, 2017 11:27