2020 Photo Year in Review

The Turkish Mediterranean 

Turkish flag and sail.sm

It has been a blessing to spend part of 2020 on a sailboat instead of in quarantine–or worse, in a COVID-19 hospital ward. More than a million people are dead of the virus. To have been able to isolate onboard Flying Fish during this health crisis was a privilege that I did not take for granted. Flying Fish is grounded for now.  My Turkish visa expired, requiring that I leave the country. The European Union, which controls most of the remaining Mediterranean coastline, is closed to visitors with U.S. passports. I cannot sail onward to Greece, Italy, France, or Spain until the virus is under control. Going forward during this time of politics and pandemic will require creative navigation at a date unknown. For now, it provides solace to look back at 2020 aboard Flying Fish


Isolation during the time of COVID was essential. Often, this quiet time alone was also euphoric. As I sailed along the Türk Rivierası, also known as the Turquoise Coast, it was my personal objective each day to seek out something positive. There was joy in the simplicity of a quiet anchorage. Where mountains met the sea I was utterly absorbed by the power of the Mediterranean landscape. Isolation in nature, I learned, has its own healing efficacy.

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At every anchorage on the Turkish Mediterranean coastline there is evidence of ancient civilization. The ruins are a reflection of the greatness, the fallibility, the faith, and the arrogance of the human species. In 334 BC, Alexander the Great, at age 30, rampaged through what is now modern-day Turkey conquering the Persians and creating one of the largest empires of the ancient world stretching from Greece to northwestern India. Mark Antony is said to have chosen the entire Turkish Riviera as a wedding gift for his beloved Cleopatra. The volcanic mountains near Dalyan, are believed to have been the inspiration for the mythical Chimera — a fire-breathing monster that the heroic Bellerophon slew while riding into battle on the winged back of Pegasus. The ruins of Turkey were a constant reminder to me, coming from a nation less than 250 years old, of the fragility of great civilizations.

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On this journey around the world, the keel of Flying Fish has passed over some of the most remarkable underwater landscapes imaginable. But along the Turkish Mediterranean the subsurface is in many ways understated. Instead of delicate tendrils of live coral and a multitude of colorful tropical fish, the Turkish Mediterranean sea bottom is often, like its shoreline, rugged and raw. Still, to a careful observer, there is life and color among the rocks. There is also history below the surface of the water. In a remote area of the Datça Peninsula I made a free dive to check that the anchor of Flying Fish was secure and I discovered nearby a mound of ancient pottery including pieces of amphora and several unbroken clay cooking pots. In the seaside village of Gümüşlük I dove over the ruins of ancient Myndos with its submerged roads, jetties, and walls made of interlocking stones perfectly cut and each weighing several tons. I wonder if future generations will see these same underwater treasures.

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On Shore

The Turkish people welcomed me as if I were a part of their family, despite the fact I could not master the language with its distinctive characteristics of vowel harmony and extensive tongue-twisting agglutination. Usually a smile was the only translation necessary. The food is savory and fresh, often prepared and served only hours after being harvested from the garden or sea. Turkish wines are spectacular. The history of the Turks covers a time frame of more than 4,000 years. They endured invasions by the Mongols and Huns and Crusaders. Modern-day Turkey shares borders with Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and parts of the Balkans. Yet, when it came to confronting a major global enemy–the infection of COVID-19–the Turkish government controlled the virus with early lockdowns and prudent precautions. Virus numbers never spiked in Turkey as they did elsewhere in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The Turks are as resilient as they are resourceful.

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The route of Flying Fish in the Summer of 2020

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Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2020