Louise Schwartzkoff –
Each July, when Crete’s resorts fill with visitors, tour buses congregate outside the island’s famous archaeological sites.
Sightseers mill about the ruins, taking photographs of crumbling stone and imagining events that took place thousands of years ago.
For those who care to look, the island also holds clues to a more recent past: the remains of a German dive bomber and a metal shipwreck off the west coast.
Crusty with rust and home to scores of fish, the vessel is a missing piece of Australian war history.
But until archaeologist Michael Bendon stumbled upon it, no one knew or cared. Bendon, who lives in Sydney, came to Crete to help excavate an ancient harbour city flattened by the Romans in 67BC.
The work was hot and dusty. He and his colleagues started at six every morning, working with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows, breaking for a swim after breakfast.
One morning as he paddled, Bendon noticed a wreck with a heavy loading ramp a few metres beneath the surface.
The vessel was at least 50 metres long – easy to spot in the clear shallows off Phalasarna.
But no one – not even the staff at a nearby museum – could tell him its name. It was a World War II vessel, they said. The rest was a mystery.