Divers in the Sea of Galilee are searching for a fabled sunken treasure, 100 years after the boat purportedly carrying it was drowned in a World War I battle.
The Ottoman steamboat Sharia was sunk by the British Royal Air Force on September 25, 1918 in the north of the lake, as it sought to flee advancing British and Australian forces during battles for control of the region. Rumors swirled after Sharia’s sinking that the boat was loaded with gold when it was sunk.
“Sharia served as a bank for the Turkish government,” underwater photographer Amir Weizman of Aquazoom told Channel 10 news, relating the tales. “The Turks feared leaving the gold and silver used to pay the salaries of soldiers…on dry land due to robbers, so they put it on the boat. At night the boat would sail to the middle of the Sea of Galilee and that’s how they avoided theft.”
The Sharia lay undisturbed at the bottom of the lake for decades. In 1989 its wreckage was discovered by divers, though no gold was found — only the ship’s name plate and several ancient swords.
Divers returned to the wreckage in 2012 and filmed it for the first time but did not find any gold. In recent days the boat is once again being examined by teams from the Yam-Yafo underwater survey company.
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Ronnie Sade of Yam-Yafo told Channel 10 he was skeptical of the treasure myth.
“As far as we know the boat was used as a ferry for people and merchandise,” he said. “Over the years various tales have been tied to it concerning a floating bank or coins of Ottoman soldiers kept on board.
“I personally am not convinced of that, but if there’s gold there, we’ll find it.”