Write: Melih Uslu Photo: Ali Ethem Keskin
Underwater photographer Ali Ethem Keskin, who has experienced scuba diving in the world’s most interesting locations from the Read Sea to the Pacific Ocean for twenty years, told of the depths of Anatolia.
Kaş, Sudan, the Caribbean, Florida, Borneo, Australia, the South China Sea… For twenty years, professional diver and underwater photographer Ali Ethem Keskin has been diving in the richest regions around the world in terms of sea and ocean plantations. His passion started as a young man; in fall 2000, and he focused his interest on Anatolia’s underwater reserves. A photograph he saw in Skylife Magazine changed his life, he says. The blue-green shade and silky appearance of the water in the photo of Yerköprü Falls in the Konya district of Hadim impressed Mr. Keskin considerably. Upon contemplating what other enchanting areas there might be in Turkey, Keskin decided to start exploring Anatolia from under water.
The mystery of Yerköprü
The geological formation of Yerköprü Falls, located twenty-three kilometers to the east of Hadim, is quite interesting. The Göksu River, which has given life to Anatolia throughout history, enters a cave in Yerköprü and disappears underground. Karasu Creek, another body of running water, flows roughly twenty-five meters above the Göksu, lending to the scene the image of a highway. The Karasu flows for about five hundred meters before turning into Yerköprü Falls and spilling out on top of the Göksu. We ask Keskin about his experience diving in Yerköprü, which he says is peerless worldwide as a formation. The calcareous waters of the Karasu coats the rocks in a white shroud, like the travertine formations in Pamukkale, he explains, adding, “In the comic books I read as a child, there were caves behind waterfalls, and the protagonists of the books would hide in these caves. Here, in Yerköprü, this became a reality. I became very excited when I moved behind the waterfall. The sound of the waters trembling intensely as they fell from high above sent a vibration running through me as if I were at a big rock music show.”
The floating Islands of Eğirdir
After his diving experience at Yerköprü, Mr. Keskin decided to traverse Anatolia step by step to dive in lakes, running waters, caves, underwater rivers, and swallow holes. He witnessed a unique event of nature in Eğirdir, Turkey’s fourth-largest lake. The leaves of plants belonging to a class of primitive plants that grow on the lakebed, charophyceae, floated up to the surface and accumulated. With the effect of the wind, these leaves were mixed with pollen and bits of earth, in time creating floating islands with depths of up to a few meters. Keskin is one of the first divers to have gone beneath these swimming islands. We ask him what he saw: “It was just like I was diving in a cave. When I looked ahead from under the swimming islands, the unmatched beauties of the lake were visible. I never had such an impressive dive before. The green stems of water lilies accompanied one thousand and one shades of blue…” Keskin also had an adventure submerged beneath ice in the Kaçkar Mountains. Büyük Deniz (Great Sea) Lake, at an elevation of 3,400 meters, is covered in ice during most of the year. We ask about the time he dove here right before the lake’s ice started to melt as summer was approaching: “As I descended beneath a layer of ice that was up to four meters thick, I had questions like, ‘When will I start to get cold? Would the regulators freeze?’ in my mind. Underwater, the ice layer appeared as if I were looking at the sky from under clouds. It was the most interesting experience of my life.”
We ask Mr. Keskin which impressed him most out of all the places he has dived in Anatolia. “Actually, there can’t be one answer to this,” he starts. Azmak Creek in Akyaka, however, is of special importance to him. The main characteristic of the Azmak is that it is formed by numerous sources lined up in close proximity over hundreds of meters. In addition to hosting such creatures as gray mullet, eel, and turtles, the region is a habitat for piscivorous (fish-eating) birds as well. The tall underwater plants on the bed appear to waltz due to the rapid current. The cavities carved in the rock by the current create extraordinary scenes underwater. Listening to the invisible beauty of Anatolia as described by Mr. Keskin is truly pleasant. He also mentioned underwater rainbows, and we can’t help but ask about them—“When I first entered the water in Yazılı Canyon, near Çandır Village in Isparta, I practically had my breath taken away from the cold. When I looked closely at the running water, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw light splitting up into different colors—this was an underwater rainbow. Out of excitement, I was unable to take a picture for a few seconds. Capturing this marvelous event of nature was an extraordinary experience.”